Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Windham Campbell Prizes 2015

Living in New York City it is easier to connect to great writers and other artists. Still, living in Connecticut doesn't shut you out of that access. After all, New York City is still about two hours away and you can still see great things.
The great part about living not that far away from Yale is that they have amazing events that are free all the time.
The part of the year I look forward to most as a writer is the Windham Campbell Prizes Festival. It is a nearly week long event during which nine people are awarded a prize ($150,000.00 each) and there are events the entire week.
Last year's event featuring Zadie Smith meant there was a line out the door. This year with Hilton Als there was no line but there was a profound speech about being black, gay, and living New York City. It was a microscopic view into a world that was being ravaged by AIDS.
I go to the talks not only to hear people I already know about but to listen to others I've never heard of. The prize winners are a diverse group of people from all over the world.

The Art of Fiction: Teju Cole, Helon Habila, Ivan Vladislavic; moderated by Michael Cunningham.
This was a great opportunity to hear, as a writer, that you are not alone in that universe. As Teju Cole said (approximately) "you don't want to go into the basement alone so you take the writer with you."
Hearing a short portion of their writing was a delight, particularly the piece from Mr. Vladislavic which involved taking a photo and its shutter acting as a guillotine.

A Life of White Bowls: Edmund de Waal; moderated by Tim Barringer.
The FT has called him "the most accomplished British potter alive today". Mr. de Waal only produces white pottery yet it is the history behind those pots that informs us. And yes, it felt as though my very British influenced undergraduate education served me well during this talk.