Finite Words

I volunteered at the Brooklyn Book Festival  today thanks to Marcela Landres  and sat in on a portion of Edwidge Danticat’s talk. Edwidge is a great writer, but she’s also a good speaker and has the kind of presence that makes you want to be around her. The fifteen minutes I stole to listen to her were well worth the 4 hours I put in volunteering. (Tickets were free all sessions, but I hate waiting on those lines.)

During the question and answer section, a woman in the audience asked Edwidge what she liked most about writing and what challenges she encountered. Her answer: what she likes most about writing is the writing. She said she’s not happy unless she’s writing. As for the challenges: that what you put on paper never matches what you have in your mind. Early on, Edwidge talked to one of her mentors about her frustration with a writing project. The mentor told her: Everyone has the same problem. The mind is infinite and you are attempting to capture that with the finite number of words contained in language. (More or less, I didn’t write it down.) And that you have to just keep going.

It always helps to hear it one more time: Just keep going.

Other pluses of the day: I met Paul Auster …well, he asked me where he could sit and I told him. That counts as meeting in my book. Plus my husband is going to be so jealous that I got to breathe his second-hand cigar smoke. I attended the session with Jonathan Lethem and Mary Gaitskill and learned how to pronounce his name. Lee-them not Ley-them. I ran into Teri and Matt at Horse+Dragon.

Also I got to spend the day outside, after two weeks chained to my computer and I biked there, ditto the two weeks and my computer. And I talked to people, ditto ditto.

All in all, no minuses. Definitely check it out next year.


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