The Scream continues. I woke up too late to go to the walking tour of where the bookstores used to be in Toronto, but I did make it to the round table about editing. Three editors had been given a poem and a short story by anonymous (until they were revealed at the event!) writers and had edited them. The writers read aloud the original pieces (or, well, a page from the short story), and then the editors discussed their edits, and then the writers discussed their revisions, and then the audience asked questions.
It was mostly a missed opportunity, but perhaps in a productive way. The editors were all frustrated that they hadn't been able to have conversations with the writers while they were editing them. The conversation between editor and writer was thus highlighted* as the central activity of the editing process. An editor is someone who has a meaningful, knowing conversation with a writer, someone who plays the role of a writer's BFF when the writer needs advice or perhaps has to change their life around. And since the conceit behind the event removed this conversation, the audience didn't get a chance to see real editing. There was a moment when one audience member asked why a particular line that she liked had gotten edited: It would have been nice to see more of that. More of the conversation, more of what sorts of negotiations happen in editing, and how various questions are raised and what sorts of things these writers and editors were thinking about when they engaged with the texts.
Afterwards was the screening of Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451. This is perhaps not a very good movie. There is some really fun mid-sixties interior design. And some great shots of mid-sixties books -- all those Penguins and Editions Gallimard that burn! But it is kind of a stupid movie, pro-book and anti-television (and, for that matter, anti-comics!) in the most dumb and reactionary way.
But before the movie, six people read a poem each relating to the movie. Including me. The poems were of various sorts -- from Stephen Cain interrogating a book, torturing it and rubbing his face against it, to Katherine Parrish reciting the walkthrough of an interactive fiction version of Fahrenheit 451.
I did what seemed obvious: I used David Abel's eclipse method of adapting a text (I recently linked to his description of the process and my favorite of his eclipse poems) upon the first few sentences of the novel. I found a length that produced all sorts of neat effects in the grammar, and read it quickly to bring out the rhythm and Bradbury's sputtering cadences and alliterations (where David usually reads slowly, using the method to create a meditative reading, like rolling the words around with your tongue). Perhaps I'll make a sound file and post it later.
* * *
Tomorrow my friends Anthony Easton and Sundar Subramanian are performing a Christian Marclay piece that involves playing music from photographs of sheet music taken in urban settings (on signage, for instance), if you see what I mean. I'm not sure how it fits in with the festival, but it's all good. I'll be there.
* Why is this not "highlit"?