Friday, September 28, 2007

That "Oh Yeah...Weird" Moment that Happens...

Well, I just had one of those "Isn't the world odd" moments. I feel a little Proustian in my desire to unravel the many threads of this one moment, but my posts already take far too many paragraphs than are approproate for the genre, so I'll ty to keep this short (and I will fail).

But anyway, I'm currently reading Kathllen Norris' "The Virgin of Bennington". I had heard about the book when I was still a student at Bennington, because I think it was published around 2000. Kathleen Norris, is a name I'd heard bandied about from time to time, as a "Christian" writer (those quotation marks relfect the tone people used when they talked about her, not my own opinion- meaning she is indeed a Christian, but writes frankly about the reality of sex, drugs, rock n' roll and other things that Christian bookstores often feel uncomfortable "promoting"). Well, she'd sort of been on my radar, but the ephemeral criticisms that had seeped into my psyche, kept me from picking up any of her books while I was in my reading binge of 2003-2006. Until, about a month ago, when Carl Raschke quoted her in our Philospohical Inquiry class. And suddenly, I had a burning urge to read her, almost like I'd forgotten to turn off the stove or something. And I knew without a doubt that my first venture into her work would be her memoir of college and post-college life in New York City: "The Virgin of Bennington". The title is genius of course, because the words Virgin and Bennington are quite paradoxical when put together, as were I and a few other gals who graduated Bennington in 2002. We had heard the book title when it came out and wondered how someone had managed to write a book about us without our knowing it.

Anyhoo, I'm reading the book, and loving it. It's mostly about the challenges of transitioning into adulthood out of shelterd college life (though, as one would expect, her Bennington College life was not sheltered in the traditional sense of being innocent of depravity and temptaion, but more of the womb-like atmosphere of progressive liberal arts education) as well as trying to make a living off of poetry. The book is the second in my current Intertextual Reading Project (as I've named it) where I'm trying to interject non-school reading materials into my studying, which basically means keeping a book in the bathroom. I'm sure Gene Wilder wouldn't be offended that I read his autobiography on the toilet.

But back to my "Oh Yeah...weird" moment. I was scanning over the names of Bennington's 75th Anniversay committee, which I am on, even though I can't actually go to the reunion which is happening, like now, I think, and as I was looking at the "Honorary " Committee members (famous alumni who won't be at the reunion either, but who lend their names to lend status to the event) when it suddenly dawned on me that Kathleen Norris would proabably be on the comittee. And "Oh Yeah" there she was, four people down from Alan Arkin, and three people above Tim Daly, and 73 people above Kj Swanson. It just struck me as very eerie, wierd and kind of serendipitous that I'm sharing letterhead space with Kathleen Norris at the same time I start finally reading her books. Though I expected to find much more of myself in her memoir of Bennington life (she was way more shy and reclusive than I am capable of being), it's nice to find my life connecting to her in this way: that we both have a lot to love Bennington for, and are willing to have our names appear advertising an event we will neither us of attend. It's a small, small world.

7 comments:

Garth said...

When I read the words "the Virgin of Bennington", not having heard of this book before, my first thought was of a film written by Brett Easton Ellis and directed by Judd Apatow. Is it sort of like that?

Kj said...

Ha ha-- er, no. It's less cocaine, murder, and Steve Carrell, and more Andy Warhol celebs, poetry readings and awkward coming into womanhoodness.

Keepitmoving said...

my heart aches to look at that row of houses! I can't believe I'm going to be there without you- I'm seriously having a moment here. Can one die of nostalgia??

Kj said...

sometimes we have to live into the ache-- cheesy, but true.

i'll miss you and me being there.


Have I told you that Led Zeplin always makes me think of making our Noyes door signs in that mccullough bedroom you had before we could move into the apartment? Led Zeplin makes me think of gromits, graph paper and industrial catalogues...and you, of course.

JustAnotherDramaQueen said...

I too had a moment of nostalgia. Can one miss an experience one has never had? I'm very excited to see Garth this weekend, and more of my Bennington pals this fall. Thank you for introducing me to such a primo teamo of excellent folks.

Jen HW said...

I'm not going to reunion (I go up there so much for work that it would be hard to wrangle myself out of work-mind--plus I have a big thing to do on that Saturday here on Long Island)...but...oh how I love Kathleen Norris. Another door opener for me. I can't wait for her to publish another book so I can have a timely excuse to interview her for the Bennington website. :-)

katrina said...

did you know she plays the flute? in my strange, post-grad job @ Bennington, i transferred old reel-to-reel tapes to a hard drive and i got to listen to her senior concert. not bad for a writer! (hah...maybe someday someone will listen to my senior concert and say, "Not bad for a carpenter!")