Thank you, Adrian Todd Zuniga, for bringing LDM to PtldME for the third time. And for doing it now. I really needed that – it’s been a bad October.
[irrelevant rant] Everything broke this month: my phone/internet connection (leading to a missed package delivery); my cat (leading to $189 in tests that showed that even at age 19 she’s not quite done yet, even if she can’t walk straight, as long as she can jump up on the bed and the couch and me and if we can just get more methimazole into her we might plump up that hyperthyroid post-apocalyptic starvation look); the government (don’t get me started; I’m not even able to do my evening soak in the Chris Hayes/Rachel Maddow Liberal Hot Tub of Consensus every night [except for Click-3 and the ten minutes around the toss] because I get too angry at what’s going on); and me (I am just not going to get mathematical induction this time around, and this breaks my heart). And then there’s the real stuff, but I can’t talk about that publicly.[/irrelevant rant]
Of all the participants last night, I only knew of Bill Roorbach, having just read (and very much enjoyed) his most recent novel, Life Among Giants. However: After one change of seats (I just sensed that the first seat I picked wasn’t the right one), I ended up next to the parents of Jessica Anthony, another contestant, and author of The Convalescent, which McSweeney’s calls “the story of a small, bearded man selling meat out of a bus parked next to a stream in suburban Virginia . . . and also, somehow, the story of ten thousand years of Hungarian history.” Hot damn, add that puppy to my read list, especially since Jessica’s read was a hilarious bawdy space romp. And educational: I never knew butternut squash was anything but a gourd.
Also contenting: Crash Barry carried a suitcase lettered “Sex, Drugs & Blueberries” (the title of his first book) and passed a sprig of marijuana around the room show-and-tell style (it somehow disappeared, hmmmm…) in honor of his upcoming book Marijuana Valley, Maine: a true story (Crash is a “card-carrying medical marijuana patient” so it’s legal). Let me just say this: marijuana’s a lot stinkier than it was in the 70s. And that’s before it’s lit. Rounding out the foursome: Mira Ptacin, who read her entry from Goodbye to all That, a collection of essays about writers who got the hell out of New York and moved to places like Peaks Island, Maine, as any sensible person would.
The judges: Joshua Bodwell of MWPA focused on literary merit; director Sean Mewshaw critiqued performance, and artist Chelsea H. B. DeLorme handled intangibles. If you’ve ever been to an LDM, you know those category names are illusory. Judges’ critiques included notes about bandaids, American Girl dolls, and what it means when a woman wears a dress with hearts on it, or a velvet blazer that matches the one worn by the host.
It seems the nerf darts have been discontinued, so time limits were announced by bell-ringing and threats of hugs. I was seriously disappointed that no hugging commenced, as every reader went over her allotted seven minutes. Not that time limits mattered; everyone would’ve been happy if they’d each read twice that long. I just wanted to see what it’d be like to have a bunch of people hug a reader-in-progress. I guess we’re too shy around here; it is New England, after all, though most of us come from somewhere else these days.
As it happened, Bill and Jessica ended up in the final round. I’d started out rooting for Bill, but you can’t sit next to a contestant’s parents and not feel some degree of kinship, so I would’ve been happy whoever won. In a highly intense game of Lone Star Lit, they and a couple of volunteer team members had to figure out to which top-ranked book a one-star Amazon review referred. I love those reviews; Least Helpful is on my Cool Sites page, in fact, though lately they’ve been featuring more product than book reviews. It’s always hilarious to discover people who think Dr. Seuss is liberal propaganda (though I suppose it is) and Jane Eyre is boring (I’ll admit, I’d always assumed it was, until I actually read it). I think ATZ was disappointed that the crowd wasn’t making more noise, but we were concentrating – it was hard!
In the end, Bill won, but that wasn’t really the point, was it. Everyone had a blast, and I found out about a whole new bunch of local writers. The only down side was trying to explain what was going on to curious passers-by while the entrance line stretched out the entrance down the sidewalk (yes, it’s that popular). There’s just no quick way to accurately convey just what goes on at these things. Or how much fun it is.
Maybe that’s the appeal. LDM: label-resistant. Coming soon to somewhere near you. The perfect way to recharge the batteries when you’ve been ashened and sobered by your lonesome October.