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2001-03-29 - 12:25 p.m.

Yesterday I left work early to go downtown to Harold Wash Library for this Dorothy Allison & Sherman Alexie thing. It was a conversation about writing, moderated by another lady who seemed to be a famous writer & is on faculty at Columbia College. It was so amazing. It was their first time meeting, & it was so great to see how much they cracked each other up, & how much they had in common. Sherman said it was great to finally meet, since they're always there on the bookshelves next to each other, or with Isabel Allende in between. That morning when I'd grabbed both their books, I noticed she was the only one in between them on my bookshelf! I guess what I'm getting at is that Sherman loves me hardcore.

Sherman said his greatest motivation for writing is revenge. He has like 8 people he really hates, people who were in positions of authority when he was younger. He is happy when he writes something he knows will get to those people. I LOVE it. He said when he was younger, he learned to be funny to deal with bullies, & that his greatest happiness was in being smarter than the white kids. After we all laughed really hard, he said "There's still nothing that makes me happier than being smarter than white kids." Could I love him any more? He addressed different forms of racism he encounters as a writer. People diminishing his talent because he's Indian, therefore "naturally" good at "storytelling." Dorothy gets the same thing, being a Southerner - apparently everyone's decided it's no big to write the astounding things she does when she of course "sat on the porch listening to grandma telling stories" all her childhood, in the minds of these condescenders. Later, Sherman talked more seriously about the reasons for writing, how you really affect people's lives, & they come up to you & tell you this, & of course that's why he writes.

Sherman said the traveling life of a writer is much like salespeople. He said they're flying the same flights, staying in the same crappy motels, watching the same porn. Dorothy said "NO, we're not. We're watching different porn."

He said he was making lots of $ in Hollywood, writing screenplays. He quit. He said "I gave the money back & I left. It was like working for Merrill Lynch."

He was great talking about his audience, and would just refer to his aud as "all these white women." He said he does sometimes feel like a fetish, "about ten times every reading."

They look the most forward to audiences that aren't all people who agree with them. Dorothy's best reading ever was when a coach marched his entire - basketball? football? same diff - team into the reading. They both feel so much more ON when there are gross stupid white boys (my words, not theirs) sitting in the audience. How much do I wish I could be at something like that.

Dorothy talked about trying to find the truth of her family. Asking "the unforgivable questions." And never getting the same answer twice. And realizing, each different version is the truth. I didn't write down exactly what she said, but it was something like, "I write stories to make sense out of things that don't make sense."

She spoke about dealing with women who want her to write the great lesbian novel, & how you can't write what people are telling you to write, either because you feel like you should or because you think it'll make you money. "That's eating your own heart out." Her response to the critiques of lesbian feminists who don't like her as a role model is "I've had people shoot my front door. You think I'm gonna worry about you telling me I'm not correct?"

She said some really funny & sad things about being pornographic by nature, as a gay woman. How there are straight men who jerk off to images that are just her life - 2 women who are married & have a kid. "I know they fantasize about us, I don't know, making sour cream dip." She said she wishes they could help her out with her fantasy life a little more, since she's doing so much for them.

I wish that I had written down more of what they both said. The really funny things, & the really serious things. They made me feel really proud to be a writer, & more like it's something I can do, even though so much of the talk was about how hard it is.

There was a lot more good political talk. Oh, Sherman talked about people coming to him with New Age-y expectations, even though he has stated many times how uninterested in it he is. He said he could so easily in a year have a cult of 35 white women drinking Kool-Aid. And also that he thinks people expect him to turn into an eagle at the end of his reading.

There was a lot of discussion between the 2 of them of the similarities between Indians & poor white people. Trucks & trailers & hunger & alcohol. And the miracle for both of them of breaking the cycle. Not a "miracle" - you know what I mean.

After this long talk that I've done no justice to, they signed books. I'd brought one of each of their books from home. I took Sherman "The Toughest Indian in the World" to sign. If you have not read it, you are so missing out. I think it's still in hardcover, though. Anyway, I told him my name & said "I love 'Saint Junior'." He said "Thanks," and I wanted to say something more about how much that story means to me & inspires me, so I eloquently growled "That story's the SHIT." He laughed hard & suddenly, & lost words for a second "Thanks..I, uh..I never...I only hear that said on the basketball court." It made me so happy to make him laugh. He'd only had 2 hours sleep, so it probably wasn't that big an accomplishment. But it made me really glad.

I got in line for Dorothy. I had her book of poetry, "The Women Who Hate Me". I got up to her & was pretty speechless. It was the 4th time I've seen her, & I'd only ever tried talking to her the first time. It was not successful - I was all blubbery (plus, I started crying). Anyway, last night - so she looked down at the Post-It on my book, because we had to write our names down like that. She said my name & then said "Girl, you're a redhead." Um...I am a redhead. Except after like 5 years of bright red hair, I dyed it dark purpley-brown about a month ago. I don't know how she could tell. I was so surprised. She said being a redhead has done good things for her, ever since she realized she was one & made herself one.

She has a new novel & a book of short stories coming out. She did a reading that was hard for me to hear. The echo or something of the sound system. What I could hear was really amazing, & heartwrenching.

I'm done, only because my lunch hour is over.

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