“Perhaps the most revolting of all the vaudeville acts was Hadji Ali. The Great Regurgitator, as he was known, could at will swallow then spew forth a series of coloured handkerchiefs…”
~ Binnie Brennan (Acadia University talk)
There was a nice crowd at my recent reading in a university library, most of the audience there of their own free will. In attendance there were students of a creative-writing class, all of them fresh-faced and so very new-looking. Some of them were taking notes and others simply listening as I filled their ears with stories of vaudeville and Buster Keaton’s life as a vaudevillian, and read from my novel. I was deeply encouraged to note that not one person was scratching away at a mobile phone, and I was able to make eye contact with all of them during the course of my talk. It was fun, and I was energized by the experience.
It pleased me deeply to read some of the students’ responses, which one of their professors kindly forwarded:
Choosing to go to Binnie Brennan’s ‘Authors at Acadia’ was one of the best decisions I’ve made all week, and I’m not exaggerating! I was pleased to hear that she was mentored by Alistair McLeod, and I have read so much by him… I was also riveted by the readings from her book, and it made me severely want to purchase it for my own collection, even though I really have no time for personal reading right now.
I got so caught up in Billy and Lucinda’s first performance that by the end I actually sighed with relief that it went off without a hitch.
(SIGHED WITH RELIEF!)
…I also felt that Brennan’s reading added something that could not be gained from reading the piece myself; I found her hushed but engaged voice helped to convey the awe… her fictional audience members had for the art that was being shared with them.
At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I was surprised and flattered to have held the attention of these young listeners. I hope they’ll sniff out some of Keaton’s movies, and that when they have time for personal reading, maybe they’ll make room on their bookshelf for, well, you know what.