Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Stephen King and other Strangers

Every February, FSU hosts "Seven Days of Opening Nights" where the university has actors, dancers, musicians and any kind of artistic expression invited to perform for the public. There is usually one act I'd love to see, but I've never done it. This year, there were three: two scheduled and one accidental. Willie Nelson. Arlo Guthrie. Stephen King. Willie and Arlo sold out immediately; Stephen King stepped in for Richard Russo, who had to cancel his appearance due to his mother being very ill and probably dying. I GOT TICKETS!!!!

My husband accompanied me to Ruby Diamond Auditorium, and we packed ourselves in to seats wedged between a million other people. It was a bit like being on an airplane, but I think the seats were closer together.

First up was the presentation of the 2006 Dean's Prize in Creative Writing followed by a reading by the recipient, Susanna Childress, a poet who wrote Jagged with Love. She read two of her poems, which were wonderful. One was how love travels and expresses itself in the traveler, and the other was a woman with cancer getting a bath by her husband. Excellent.

Then Mark Winegardner (writer of "The Godfather" sequel) introduced Stephen King. A long, rather entertaining intro.

Finally, the man arrived on stage himself; dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved white shirt, hair curling at his shoulders and his enormous glasses. His first comments were about the cool microphone he was wearing on his head... said it made him "feel like Garth f***ing Brooks!" with such delight! He'd never worn a headset mic before and loved walking all over the stage with nothing tying him down.

Because he was a last-minute replacement, he only had about a week to put something together for this appearance. What he came up with! First time ever in public, he read a short story (to be published later) called "Memory" which was about (in a round about way) his accident and recovery. Very good story! I was immediately engrossed and lost myself for the 40 or so minutes he was reading. And then it was over. Just like that... and he said he would sign books for people who lined up on the right side of the auditorium. We hadn't brought any books, so we got up and left... already the book-signing line was going out the door of the auditorium.

So... it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I was very satisfied with it. My husband, on the other hand, seemed to feel a nagging, something-left-unsaid unsettlement. I asked him what he thought and he was not very forthcoming. So I asked him about the poet before Stephen King and he said he just didn't get it.

One of my long-held ideas of my husband was that he was quite literary. Not in the Shakespeare and Tolstoy sort of way, but thoughtful about whatever modern fiction he might read (and he does read it from time to time - including Stephen King). But he's not.

What he told me was that he didn't understand anyone wanting to be or writing from someone else's point of view. I was so surprised! I love stepping out of my life for brief periods of time and becoming immersed in someone's writing. He does not.

All my life, I have thought around corners; felt things; intuited much; and made connections that are not obvious. I suppose that somewhere in my cross-wired brain, I thought most other people were like that too. But they're not! In fact, there are very few people who think like I do.

It bothered me a lot for a couple of days that my husband, who I thought I knew, wasn't the kind of person I thought he was. On further reflection, it explains much about his attitude towards my reading and how he approaches his own. I'm okay now - it was just a big adjustment after "knowing" this man for 12 years. Maybe I don't really know him at all and I'm really in love with who I THINK he is.

No - I love HIM.


Alice in Wonderbread said...

Three cheers for husbands who are not what we think they are, because who they really are is so much BETTER than what we could have possibly imagined. :)

Sayre said...

Yup.... I think that if I was given the chance to DESIGN a man for myself, I might like him in theory but not in reality. The real thing is so much better - surprises and all!

Anonymous said...


Hi. My name is Susanna Childress, the gal who read a couple poems before Stephen King. I googled myself to find a link whose URL I couldn't otherwise locate, and I stumbled across your page.

I'm not normally so narcissistic but it is both strange and fascinating to read about myself on your blog. I thank you for your kind words about my poetry, even if your husband wasn't much of a fan. (I have to admit that I don't often "get" a lot of the poetry that's published today.) But I am also glad that he was able to articulate why he didn't enjoy it -- this is itself a feat -- believe me, I have students who I would applaud for speaking as clearly about their hesitation as your husband.

Anyway, it was fun to come across your page. And again, thanks for the encouragement -- and for processing issues of perspective, literary or not.

Happy summer,
Susanna Childress