The Labor Day reception for writers current and perhaps future was held in a lovely garden. The sun was shining, the food was excellent, the wine was plentiful, and the conversation was about…the Red Sox.
The first intimations of dismay came when I was approached by an accomplished poet whom I hadn’t seen in some time. Even before I could say hello, she put her hand on my arm and said, “These are terrible times, aren’t they?”
As I am familiar with the poet’s politics, I assumed she’d watched some of the Republican Convention. But, no.
“They can’t beat anybody,” she said. “What are the chances that Bobby Valentine returns next year?”
I told the poet I didn’t think the chances were very good.
Apparently it was the right thing to say. When she nodded, she looked a little less stricken.
Moments later I found myself face to face with a man whose novels and stories have been widely celebrated. He has created memorable characters of all sorts. But in the garden on this potentially lyrical day in late summer, his concern was non-fiction. He was savaging a Boston sportswriter whom he regarded as sarcastic, mean-spirited, and wrong, at least as regards the Red Sox, upon whose trials the sportswriter has capitalized in several books.
Of course it’s not unusual for one writer to rag on another. Literary feuds are a grand tradition here and abroad. But prize-winning novelist vs. deadline-driven columnist seemed a mismatch, especially as the columnist was only at the party in spirit, albeit mean spirit.
I moved on, pausing only briefly to overhear more disappointment engendered by bad signings, money ill-spent, and games lost by scores like 20-2.
No doubt the same discussions were going on between people sorting mail in the back rooms of post offices across New England, and in garages between men loosening bolts and those tightening timing belts, and in the kitchens of restaurants large and small, and along the walls outside of dealer showrooms where salespeople gather to smoke and to be away from the shiny cars they aren’t selling.
I guess I’d hoped for better at the party where the poets and novelists and writers of short stories could have spoken to each other in foreign languages of adventures in distant lands.
I guess I will never learn.