Everyone says this has been a quiet residency so far. Nothing yet has happened as dramatic as the fistfight that broke out last June between two women vying for the attentions of playwright Mac Wellman, who was doing a pole dance at the time. (The women fought to a draw.) There is also the fabled Bennington moment when Gretchen (not her real name) stood naked as a rose is a rose is a bell in an uncurtained window for a midnight hour.
Tim O’Brien, who was supposed to arrive tomorrow to deliver three lectures and a reading, has cancelled. Liam Rector, our director, asks if I’ll fill in for one of the lectures. I can choose the topic. A second substitute lecture will be given by Rick Moody following a screening of The Ice Storm, the Ang Lee movie adapted from Moody’s novel. We’re renting the local movie house for the morning. Which morning? Like everyone else here, I’ve lost my time sense, punchy from too little sleep and too many sestinas.
The time has come to think up acts for Saturday night’s varsity show. Amy Hempel proposes a “bad metaphor” contest, with a prize for the worst. Similes are eligible. Classics of the genre include “as tall as a 6'3'’ tree” and “Bob and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds, who had also never met.” Sven Birkerts has agreed to judge the “pithy summary” contest, with prizes both for the best and for the most authentically bogus summaries of great novels. The Benningtonians will reprise the anthem that begins, “We could have stayed all year, / and laughed and played all year, / but ten days were enough,” to the tune of “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Lynn Freed will do her Julia Child imitation, and Jill McCorkle will produce, script, and direct something she is calling the “Novel Swat Team.” I am in charge of writing a skit satirizing a workshop in which people take turns abusing a sensitive poet until all see the light and burst into the Hallelujah chorus or Johnny Mercer’s “Accentuate the Positive.”
-- David Lehman