After my Liam Imagine for universalcorner I thought it would be important to show you guys what Liam’s wink look like, the way he closes both eyes.
You are speaking at a conference at the University of Utah, and so far, everything is going great. The royal couples a.k.a. the Givens and the Bushmans seem completely absorbed in your presentation. You are on a roll.
Twelve minutes in, you inadvertently make eye contact with someone, someone who is frowning. That person is Orson Scott Card. For the first time, you stumble on your words, and this loss of balance is enough to make all feelings of self-confidence die inside you like a field of frangipani struck by the frost of winter. Frozen, you have no idea how to get your talk going again. You frantically look out at the audience. Everything is a blur.
But then your eyes focus on someone in the front row whom you hadn’t noticed before: a handsome faux-hawked young man with solid black arrows tattooed down his right arm. His face is sympathetic, kind. Suddenly, he winks at you, though he is bad at it. It’s as if he were blinking his eyes but one eye glitched and was on a 0.25-second delay. Then he smiles, and you smile too, calm. You take a breath, look back at your notes, and begin your sentence again.
At the concluding word of your talk, the audience’s applause roars like the Niagra Falls. You are overcome with emotion. People are lining up to meet you and congratulate you, saying that your talk was a fantastic ending to the conference, that they look forward to your book. Joanna Brooks gives you a hug and whispers “Protestants” in your ear before walking off to join her husband. Even Orson Scott Card wants to shake your hand. “I may not agree with everything you say,” he tells you, “but everything you said about gay celibate Mormons was the bomb-dot-com.” The next person in line you do not expect either, and he is even more handsome up close.
“Alex—may I call you Alex? That was absolutely brilliant,” he says in dulcet British English.
“Thank you so much,” you reply. “And what is your name?”
“Liam, it’s great to meet you.” You extend your hand. Even his handshake is nice.
“I came all the way from England for this conference because I’m a big fan of Orson Scott Card, but I did not expect to enjoy all of the talks as much as I did, especially yours.” He is still holding onto your hand. “You are amazingly eloquent. I’m not. I’m bad at spelling and geography. But you are a beautiful star. You are my role model.” He brings your hand up to his mouth and kisses it. You blush.
“You are too kind, Liam,” you say, gently pulling your hand away. He smiles nervously.
“I know this is very forward of me, but I was wondering if you would like to exchange numbers. I go back to England tomorrow and begin a concert tour next week. We spend a lot of time on the road.” When he sees the puzzled/concerned look on your face, he pauses. “What I mean is, I want to ask you to be my Mormon studies tutor. And I would gladly cover the traveling expenses for you.”
“Wow, Liam, this is all very sudden,” you say. “I’m going to have to think about it.”
“Please think about it,” he says earnestly, looking into your eyes. He is like a large Labrador puppy, and you feel the urge to adopt him.
“I will, I promise,” you say.
He smiles, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a fancy blue flower-shaped candle for you. Then he prances away, but not without turning to wink at you one last time.
The candle smells like creamy musk and sheer woods. On the bottom there’s a sticker where he has written his number along with a short message: “Alex u r lovely. I want to be a Mormon studies expert just like u. Txt me pls! Love, Liam.”
If this be magic, let it be an art
lawful as eating.” —
When we talk about the plot of THE WINTER’S TALE it is always a bizarre thing that *SPOILERS* Hermione’s statue comes to life and she’s back again after being dead for 16 years
But last week when I saw it on stage at D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre and she stepped down from the platform it was really wondrous and compelled me to believe in the unbelievable and when he touched her and said these lines I felt like I was having a vicarious religious experience and I cried
And after they were bitten,
he prepared a way that they might be healed.” —1 NEPHI 17:41
Printers Row Lit Fest Adventures, Part 3
I’ve always remembered Nathan Englander’s short stories because they amaZed mah face when I read them for class three years ago, they just really stood out to me and moved me and made me
WHY AM I LAUGHING
OMG I’M CRYING NOW
MY HEART IS BREAKING BUT IT IS OK
ACTUALLY NO IT IS NOT OK
SRSLY WHAT IS THIS PROSE&STORY PERFECTION
I told my professor thank you because I feel this Nathan Englander is KIND OF INCREDIBLE and she said “I KNOW, ISN’T HE JUST?!” and recommended I read the rest of the collection FOR THE RELIEF OF UNBEARABLE URGES
However #EMO TIMEZ I never got a copy
and at the festival, no monies but YAY credit card!
So all the other guests were already sitting in the multi-purpose room waiting for him, but there I was in the hallway purchasing his new collection right before the event when
HE STROLLED INTO TEH HALLWAY and started talking to the nice organizer ladies there, saying “Thank you so much for putting this together” etc.
Then for a flustered moment I suddenly wasn’t sure if it was really him
because the only image of him in my memory was the picture on the back cover of FOR THE RELIEF OF UNBEARABLE URGES #fabulous hair timez
But the pic on his new book looks like this
so I had to tell myself “YES IT IS HIM OK?? STOP STARING IN DISBELIEF OK!” Before he left he turned to me and said “Hi!” and grinned. I think I looked really stunned when I said “HI!” and waved back, and the ladies laughed.
After he was gone the ladies said
“You think so?”
“Yeah he’s really cute!”
Then one of them asked me
“Wasn’t he cute? You thought he was cute, didn’t you?”
I was not expecting any of this and thought OMG WELL THAT IS TOTES NOT THE REASON I WAS NERVOUS BUT I MEAN I GUESS SO!! And I wanted to participate in their fangirling which I thought was cute so I nodded and they all giggled
Then in the multi-purpose room he conversed with a fabulous lady named Donna for about 45 min. She asked deep questions and the things he said resonated with me so much, I was relieved knowing that someone understood, and he articulated himself so beautifully, I accidentally started crying directly in his vision in the 3rd row
Thankfully he is an introverted bb who didn’t make eye contact with the audience so he did not see me *PHEW*
He talked about how it keeps him up at night that life and people didn’t follow the rules and logic that he knew and was taught growing up as an orthodox Jew, the social contracts that he was used to didn’t get followed out in the world and “I can’t stand that it is not a holy just world”
“I am cowardly; I am scared of everything”
and it’s this “grey space” of tension and complexity that makes him feel the need to write
and once story worlds take on their own life you have to give them what they need, that is the only justification for anything in a world, worlds “infinite and utterly delicate”
and he talked about darkness vs. humor and writing as an ethical act and a lot of things and sorry I am using too many and’s and not being coherent I just
the whole time SIJFISDJFSJDFO WOW HE MAKES SO MUCH SENSE TO ME I hope he never stops talking and I will just sit here in rapture
But of course time ran out and he went to sign books and that’s when he said he would take a picture with me and I was laughing because the first one turned out blurry and he said, “Now I gotta reset my smile!”
Then he sat down and we had a mini-convo
“Hi mister!” WTF BANANA WHY DID U SAY “MISTER” WHY
“…Hi! You were the first one here!”
“Yes!” ON ACCIDENT THO
“Thank you for being here. It is so nice to meet you.” OMG HE IS A SWEETHEART HE SAYS EVERYTHING LIEK HE MEANS IT, MY HEART
“Thank you, we read your stories, in Jewish American literature class”
“Really??” HE LOOKED SO HAPPY
“Yes. They were my favorite.” (I wanted to say my favorite was the wigs story but forgot the title and had become very shy)
“Thank you! Where do you go to school?”
“Oh, I went to University of Iowa”
Then his eyes lit up again because (I forgot in the moment tho) he’d studied at the Writers’ Workshop back in the day, with Marilynne Robinson. I asked if he knew my Jewish lit. prof but I’m sure he didn’t ‘cause the English Dept. is separate from the Workshop and my voice became tiny so I bet he didn’t hear me, he was just saying really enthusiastic things since the mention of Iowa like “Yeah, yeah! Great!! Go Hawks!!”
and I said, “Yeah!” and then we said goodbye
MY LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
BECAUSE NATHAN ENGLANDER
Part 2: EBOO PATEL IS AN AMERICAN HERO
EBOO PATEL WAS THERE AND HE DOES MY FAVORITE THING WHICH IS INTERFAITH IT IS BASICALLY HIS CAREER AND OBAMA APPOINTED HIM TO AN INTERFAITH COUNCIL BUT OBAMA HAS NEVER ACTUALLY CALLED HIM OR ANYTHING AND ANYWAY HE WAS MEGA INSPIRING AND SO REAL
I SAID “HI EBOO THANK U FOR UR WORDS I LOOK FORWARD TO READING UR BOOK” AND HE SAID “Thank you and there will be at least 16,000 more words in this book”
AND I ASKED HIM WHAT IS ONE THING THAT HAS CHANGED IN HIS APPROACH SINCE THE START OF HIS WORK AND HE SAID SOMETHING LIKE “I used to worry about disagreement, but people will always disagree, and the interfaith effort is not to get people to agree but to understand each other and have dialogue” ETC. AND I WAS LIKE “TOTALLY!!”
Part 1: BILLY LOMBARDO OMG
Yesterday was the first time I ever went to Printers Row Lit Fest, which is held by the Chicago Tribune’s literary journal. Walking through the booths and book stalls I met and chatted with a lady named Beth who runs an international HS literary magazine. Before this job she had taught Chinese for 15 years.
She enjoyed my accent—“I like how you say ‘zhou’ in ‘Hangzhou’”—and I thought, wow she is so nice to me and my Chinese, and such an expert, too. Her table had a couple books by Billy Lombardo, which caused me to point and exclaim “I LOVE HIM!” because I’d read his Laundromat short story in a literary magazine I used to get in my teens and never forgot it.
Then she pointed to the guy next to her and whispered, “He’s right there”
AND THEN THIS WAS ME:
SHE AND BILLY RUN THE MAGAZINE TOGETHER!!
When he came over and sat back down, she told him I was a fan, and then I told him about my Cicada-reading days and how I cut and memorized the story to perform it for speech class in high school
and wow I forgot he teaches in Chicago so maybe I can stalk him sometime
Then I had no monies but she and Billy gave me a copy of the magazine for free and I was so honored and they said to show my future students and it’s very pretty and looks like this!!
The other day I was casually reading the menstruation wiki and could not help but exclaim
“DAD, ONLY PRIMATES HAVE PERIODS WHILE OTHER MAMMALS JUST ABSORB THE LINING BACK INTO THEIR BODIES”
and then my dad frowned before exclaiming
“WHAT? WHY DID JESUS’ FATHER MAKE US THIS WAY?? WHY DID HE MAKE IT SO THAT HUMANS HAVE TO SUFFER MORE??????”
Alice Walker said it best:
“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening […] Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”