Tom Perrotta, standing in the House Chamber, read from his new novel, The Abstinence Teacher, after a hilarious smart intro from John. I can't wait to read it, both because I love Tom's work but also because of the subject. It centers around a liberal human sexuality teacher who's forced to teach abstinence, and her daughter's soccer coach, a formerly hard living guy now turned evangelical.
During the Q&A, when asked how much Tom had researched the evangelical church, he answered something to the effect:
"As a person, I'm full of judgement. But as a writer, I see it as my job to put judgement aside. The goal is to learn through the process. I see no point in writing and just ending up in the same place I started."
Tom went off to sign books. Robert Wilder and I headed down to the Green Room to ready for his reading at 3:30. There I got to meet George Saunders, a writer whose name is all of a sudden everywhere. Although it's a bit confusing...how did he get to be so many people's favorite writer without me having heard of him? Pop culture's funny that way, particularly for those of us who make it our priority.
Rob and I head over to room E2.026. We were bracing ourselves for little, having experienced a light crowd earlier in the morning for Rob's "Father Knows Worst" grouping at 10am. We get to the door, people are spilling out. We peek in, the dais chairs are full. We're totally confused, what else was booked in here? Was the room changed? I ask someone in the back, "What is this?" "Nothing," she said, "those people are up on the dais just because there aren't any other chairs." Rob and I looked at each other and totally cracked up silently. I gave a perfunctory intro then he took over and had the SRO crowd laughing their heads off. Reading three parts from his wonderfully hilarious, sharp new book of essays, "Tales from the Teacher's Lounge." Rob killed. He was really really entertaining and wonderful.
It was an amazing weekend overall. Fun in the present tense. Fun because of the history and organic growth. Fun because of the human connection. Fun because of the talent. Fun.