As part of its New York State Summer Writers Institute, Skidmore brought Joyce Carol Oates to Palamountain Hall last night. Jen and I got seats in the second row of the packed auditorium, only a few seats removed from author and fellow attendee Russell Banks, whom we’d last seen speak along with Michael Ondaatje a few years ago in San Rafael.
With editing pen in hand, Oates read her as-of-yet unpublished short story High Lonesome, a narrative by a 50-something tough yet sensitive burly man in the small farm town of Herkimer, NY. A tall, slender woman, Oates invited us to imagine someone very unlike herself, though she told us later that many of the ideas for and the setting of the story, including the pungent dairy farm smells, were derived from her own past, having grown up north of Buffalo.
For someone known for her dark and often violent stories, the real-life Oates is cheerful and funny. I had seen her speak once before in the Villard Room at Vassar.
It was great to give my brain a workout last night. One of the many benefits of living in Saratoga Springs is having such easy access to so many great events like this at Skidmore.
Two years ago today: Marriage License.