How to Be Human: How Literature Helps–Recording

An offsite panel discussion at the 2020 AWP by Authors Large & Small, , this lively discussion on how to keep the good aspects of ‘great books’ while expanding the literary canon to reflect the insights of many more cultural groups. Speakers include Terry Tierney, a Victorian lit expert; St. Johns tutor Martha Franks, who taught Western classics in China while reading their classic works; Jessica Delgado, an educator on Chicano/Indigenous/queer lit; and Kelly Ann Kravez, an MFA student specializing poetry and trauma. Moderator Kristen Caven has written a philosophical graphic novel and a novel about seeking ancient female philosophers. Hosted by Cristina Deptula

Thanks to Kristen Caven for recording our offsite AWP session and Cristina Deptula for organizing the session. The discussion was fun, some disagreements of course, but quite cordial, and I found it enlightening. Each of the panelists had well expressed and interesting points of view.

One highpoint for me was mentioning Middlemarch as one of the books I love the most. Later in the day I attended a reading and interview with Louise Erdich, and she was asked what book she returns to, and she said Middlemarch. Confirmation that the spirit of George Eliot walks the halls of AWP.

Celebrating Jack London and “The Call of the Wild”

Reading outside Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, a historical Jack London hangout in Oakland, to celebrate the release of The Call of The Wild movie. Hard to tell from Linda Brown’s photograph, but I shivered wildly in the cold wind on the waterfront, the perfect scene for arctic remembrance. Also reading were the headliner Dirk Wales, along with Kristen Caven, Henry Hitz, Keith Mark Gaboury, and Karma Bennett, all from the California Writer’s Club, which according to history and legend was founded by Jack London, Joaquin Miller, Ina Coolbrith, and others.

Though I was prepared to dislike the movie based on early reviews, I enjoyed it. I hated the scenes of dog cruelty, but London’s novel and earlier movie adaptations are much more graphic. The prospectors’ desperate climb up the icy mountain from the port at Skagway, Alaska, also appears less harrowing than historical reality. But as a certified dog lover, I found myself identifying with the protagonist Buck, despite his CGI genes.

Some scenes are a bit much, such as when Buck saves a wolf from a raging river and when he pushes the bad guy into a burning building, but those moments might be more Disney than CGI. Though invested in Buck, I also pulled for Harrison Ford. I recommend the movie even if it’s not that true to the novel.

I have a few lingering questions, though, especially when Buck sires a litter of CGI puppies. Sure they’re cute and CGI dogs can apparently breed, but do they poop CGI? What is it like to snuggle a CGI pup? Our dog Pearl wakes me up every morning to take her outside, earlier on days I’d rather sleep, the gentle nudge of a not-so-wild Golden Retriever. Messy, unpredictable, warm.