Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another bit out there

I tried out part of the novel yesterday on a captive and public audience. My department hosts an annual writers festival featuring writers from around campus and around the state. With purposeful cuteness, we call the festival ArkaText. Anyway, at the faculty reading today I read in public from Yellow for the second time. (The first time, you may recall from a previous blog, was last October at the annual meeting of the Arkansas Philological Association.) It was the first time many at UCA had ever heard the book. We were under a strict time limit (10 minutes) and trying to find just the right part that will go over well in public is always tricky. I practiced reading (parts of) four different scenes: One in which, as boys, Vincent and Theo explore a graveyard and see a bird's first flight; the second, a scene in which Vincent's roommate in Dordrecht comes back from a night out to find Vincent fanatically scribbling bible verses; the third, a scene where, after moving to Den Haag, Vincent is visited in the hospital (he's caught the clap) by his father; and fourth, a completely invented scenario in which Vincent, so desperately poor in Den Haag, decides to look for a job and finds himself dealing art again. (One of my few blatant and conscious violations of historical fact in the novel.)

I decided to read this last scene, because of the four it contained the most dialogue--always a crowd pleaser. Even so, I kept questioning whether or not I made the right choice. Reading a crowd while you read aloud is dicey if also perfectly possible. But thankfully I sensed them warming to the scene, especially toward the end, when I "heard" a more concentrated listening, more weight to their attention. Afterwards, I received some very heartening comments. My friend and colleague Terry Wright--a remarkable poet and digital artist--opined that I had a winner with this novel. Let's hope so. Let's hope so. At the end of the scene, Vincent returns home disgusted with himself for dealing art again (even though he succeeds), argues with Sien, and then heads upstairs to the attic of their rented room, where he sees Sien's two children asleep, children that Vincent had emotionally adopted as his own. I realized after I read that I hadn't explained to my audience who these children were. They appeared out of nowhere. Let's hope the audience got it. They certainly did seem to be listening.


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