Readings. I have some readings coming up. One in Tremont this Saturday. I try not to think about that fact too much. I get so nervous sometimes.
Then I think about the good, the bad, and the so-so readings I’ve attended. But one thing’s for sure. I will never forget my first. I was a freshman at Bryn Mawr College (I was there only a year), and I went to a reading one evening by accident. I mean I hadn’t intended to go. I was on my way to the library when one of the English professors caught up to me. She said there was this event I shouldn’t miss. A reading by a very famous, very southern writer. I was southern, wasn’t I? By then she was guiding me by my arm. So we went together to this formal room, smallish and carpeted, with a few people milling around. I think there were twenty people or so, and most were older, clearly from the faculty. I remember this long-winded introduction. Then this bent woman stood up. I was amazed at how she looked just like a toad. She was soft-spoken at first. But then all of a sudden she took off. She started reading in this thick, southern accent at 100 mph without even stopping for air. She was like a southern accent on steroids. You had to concentrate to keep up. I started laughing and couldn’t stop. She read "Why I Live at the P.O." first. The professor sitting next to me asked if I could understand her. That’s when I realized that Eudora Welty’s accent was so thick, some people were completely lost. They sat stone-faced, staring ahead, as people so often do at readings. But I was in heaven. It was like going home without going home.
I guess we all have a few memories of readings like that. No?