Where & When: Decatur Public Library Auditorium on April 18, 2012. Sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book.
Attendance: ~30 people including one woman who was doing her knitting.
Why I Went: Both Kevin Wilson's 2011 novel The Family Fang and his collection of short stories Tunneling to the Center of the Earth have received considerable critical acclaim the past few years. (The Family Fang was one of the finalist for this year's Pultizer in fiction.) I missed his earlier visits to the Atlanta area.
What He Read: A somewhat unconventional selection. For about 25 minutes, Wilson read an excerpt from The Family Fang and three freshly written scenes for the Fang book that didn't appear in the book (requested by his publisher for promotional purposes?). The Family Fang is the story of two performance artist parents who use their children as part of their act with consequences that are detrimental to the children.
Q & A: At first, the unassumming Wilson nervously zipped and unzipped his hooded sweatshirt, but then relaxed when members of the audience asked specific questions about The Family Fang. (Something comforting when a writer connects to his or her readers.) Wilson also talked about how he first became intrigued by performance art of Chris Burden as a fifteen year old growing up in Winchester, Tennessee. Wilson admires the work of performance artist Joesph Beuys and network of artists known as Fluxus as well, but said he was careful not to study their work too much because he didn't want to risk tainting the imaginative performances he created for characters in his book.
Question-I-Was-Too-Timid-to-Ask-But-Didn't-Have-To-Because-Someone-Else-Did (thankfully). One audience member asked about the recent decision of the Pulitzer committee not to award a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2012. Wilson said that naturally he was disappointed that he didn't win (Ann Patchett wrote that Wilson was certainly worthy), but thinks Denis Johnson's Train Dreams was definitely a book that deserved the prize.
Did I Buy Something? Yes. I picked up a copy of his collection of short stories and had it signed. I debated whether to have him pose for a picture for the blog, but Wilson who thanked everyone repeatedly for attending, seemed shy about the whole “reading” experience. I didn't want to be pushy.
Worth Mentioning: Wilson has a different approach to writing that you don't often hear. Unlike some writers who insist that you have to put on a tie and write every day like it is a job, Wilson, who teaches fiction at the University of the South, says he will go months without writing. He lets the story “spend time in my head.” When it's time, he will write continuously for six or seven days, breaking only for meals.