Wednesday, March 21, 2012

tuesday night with becky and terry

usually I have a class in zen buddhism on tuesday eves, but this is reading week, which in any other academic class is called spring break, but never mind. so when I saw on monday's facebook that a couple friends of mine were reading together in mankato, on the far southern rim, I decided I would head down.

terry davis was 1 of my writing teachers when I was a grad student. he's best known for the novel vision quest which left a big impression on a lot of young men at the tail end of my generation. he is the friend who smacked his head on a cement floor doing something stupid, and my favorite terry story now is how the surgeon who operated on his brain came by his room after he'd woken from his coma to introduce himself. he said he had stopped mid-operation to stare down at his hands. he was holding the brain of the author of vision quest, the novel that the surgeon, a former high school and college wrestler, had been greatly influenced by. such moments of the closeness of our lives are rare and need to be paid attention to.

becky davis and I were teaching assistants together many decades ago and she's been good enough to visit some of my classes to discuss writing. in 1 contemporary lit class at mcnally smith several years ago I taught her novel jake riley: irreperably damaged and she came to talk about it. we've stayed in touch over the decades and a few years ago realized with a start that we were the only 2 members of a novel-reading seminar we took in the early 90s still alive.

the 2 of them contributed to a new anthology called girl meets boy, the trick to which is that 2 writers handle the same relationship story from the male and female perspectives. becky had written a short story called "mars at night" and terry offered to reprise the story from the young man's point of view. the reading was really well-attended--probably 35 or 40 people showing up for listening and questions and books, some of them writers themselves (mostly of young adult work, which is how terry and becky are both marketed by their publishers). I was disappointed that no one I'd known from my years in mankato was there since many of them are still there, but as my wife reminded me, just because I'd been able to make it didn't mean any of them could. besides, I hadn't let anyone know I was coming. I like just showing up at these things. it is less constraining; if the reader is free afterward for a beer, all to the good. if not, no harm.

anyway, the reading was really quite good on its own. becky started with a short discourse on how she'd come to write the original story and why and then read the 1st few pages. then terry talked a little about his recent brain surgery as a way of preparing everyone for his probable crying. a part of his illness is being treated but another part, his bipolar disorder, is not, and he cries when overwhelmed by emotion. he cried several times. it is a hard way to be naked in front of strangers and he was brave about it.

he read a couple funny pages about roadkill and dogs (not dogs that are roadkill, the 2 subjects are connected only by proximity) and about the male protagonist "apu"-ing all over the place (leading to my favorite word from the book, "bangla-dog!"). they took questions about writing together and editing the pieces, and at 1 point, to sort of put the truth to his point about having lost some memory, terry asked becky if she'd written the original story while they'd still been married. "no," she said, "we were divorced by then." "oh. that's why so much of it seemed so unfamiliar to me." theirs is a wonderful, friendly relationship: when terry had been in a coma, it was becky and her family who had picked up terry's son and daughter from the airport and becky's other ex-husband who'd put them up in rochester while terry was hospitalized. it was, in fact, while terry had been hospitalized that the 2 of them had made plans to do the reading together, as a way of giving him something to look forward to.

1 comment:

  1. Bobbert, you Rock. Thanks for writing this. Thanks for coming down for the reading. Thanks for being my friend through the decades.