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Harry, Carrie & Garp

Or, in actuality, Stephen, John, and Jo.

Here is my version of tonight's events, complete with differing-opinion disclaimers and celebrity name-dropping.

The evening starts with Whoopi Goldberg, who came out to set the stage for the evening. She praised readers, people clapped, and she introduced Tim Robbins, there to introduce Stephen King.

Tim Robbins talked about his experience in Shawshank Redemption, and does a very entertaining riff on how folks butcher the name. Alternatives included Scrimshaw and Scramskank (and yes, that sounds like you're telling a ho to get lost). And then he directed our attention to the four very large screens (two above and one on either side of the stage), where we saw a short biopic about the marvelous Mr. King. Whilst that was playing, the stage (lit from behind by purple lights and pinpoint stars) filled with the fog of a smoke machine and a small rolling set came out, on which were some farm-looking silhouettes. The cameras fixed on feet coming through the fog and BEHOLD! Stephen King. In pants (were they jeans? I think so, but maybe not) and a plain blue T-shirt. Standing ovations for writers are a cool thing to behold, and this was the first of the evening.

Stephen King was personable and witty and well-spoken and, getting ahead of myself a bit here, of the three, he'd be the one I'd choose to hang out with. He began his reading while in the large-framed wooden chair on his set (which he correctly compared to an electric chair, only without the electricity). He opted to read from The Body, and he read the scene called Lard-Ass Hogan's Revenge. He said that in Stand By Me, Rob Reiner did the PG version, but that this was the R version. (He, uh, shaded the truth on that one, since Lard-Ass was the hardest curse word in it, and the scene played as more funny than gross.) Fans of the movie and/or the story will recall that this scene involves a teen deliberately overeating during the blueberry pie eating contest in order to vomit, thereby causing a complete purge of everyone in the scene. Mr. King delivered his scene incredibly well, and it got far more laughs than groans. Exeunt, stage right.

Please welcome Stanley Tucci, to introduce John Irving. I have no recollection what he said, as I was busy trying to determine (a) whether to go to the potty then, or later (compromise -- during the early portion of Irving's reading, so as not to miss Ms. Rowling), and (b) whether or not Mr. Tucci has eyebrows, or just a prominent brow ridge. I came down in favor of brows. Again, we were favored with a movie on the big screens, which included not only footage of Mr. I, but part of an interview about Irving with Mr. K.

Enter John Irving from stage right, wearing white pants and a light orange silk shirt. (At least, it looked like silk under the lights.) He took so long to saunter all the way across to his mini-set at stage left that folks had pretty much stopped clapping by the time he sat down in the oversized leather chair (a la Alistair Cook). I should also note that the number of people standing was far less than for Mr. King. Irving was a vastly entertaining reader, however, who favored us with the Christmas pageant selection scene from A Prayer for Owen Meany, including an extremely comical Owen voice, which reminded me quite a bit of Robin Williams's small-child voice.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Kathy Bates, here to introduce J.K. Rowling for reasons I can't really fathom, since she was notably famous in not one, but at least two, Stephen King movies. Whatev. She looked fabulous, by the way. Clap because kids read! Watch another movie (most of which was from the recent Richard & Judy interview, which you can see on the internet in its entirety, links at Mugglenet and/or Leaky Cauldron, among others).

Enter JK Rowling in a lovely black dress (I think -- I know it showed her figure off to good effect, in any event), to Very Loud Applause and a Massive Standing Ovation. She sat on a Hogwarts-style throne on a Hogwartsian sort of set, and read from her actual book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (Messrs. King and Irving read from computer-printed pages in Very Large Fonts.) She chose the scene where Harry and Dumbledore go back in time to watch younger Dumbledore visit the orphanage where Tom Riddle grew up. The voice she did for the orphanage proprietess was most excellent. I'd love to think that her scene selection is supposed to focus us all on this scene as a means of tipping us to something in Book Seven, and maybe it was.

Her reading was shorter than King's and Irving's to allow for questions. SPOILER ALERT

Four people asked her questions.

First, a 13-yo girl who wanted to know which character she'd most like to meet for real, apart from Harry. Answer? Hagrid.

Second, a nine-year old boy who said her books were what got him started reading, then pleaded with her not to kill Harry (she appeared quite emotional about that one, really, and looked like it pained her), then basically inquired whether Dumbledore was really, truly dead? Answer? "Don't expect Dumbledore to pull a Gandalf."

Third, a twenty year old boy asking about the scene at the start of book six where Dumbledore comes to claim Harry from the Dursleys and asks that they allow him to come back one more time, where Aunt Petunia flushes. Question: Does this mean that Aunt P actually cares for Harry? Answer: There's more to Aunt Petunia, and you'll find out what it is in Book Seven.

And now, questioner number four: SALMAN RUSHDIE. Yes, you read that right. He and his young friend/grandson/ward/whatever had a theory: Snape is one of the good guys (much applause!), therefore he wouldn't do anything bad (much face-making by Ms. Rowling), therefore Dumbledore must not be dead, and therefore when Harry meets Voldemort at the end of days, he will have extra supporters about. To which Ms. Rowling said "Well, you're correct. But Dumbledore is actually dead." Or something quite like that. My hubby and I both understood her to mean that Snape is, in fact, one of the good guys, but Dumbledore is really and truly dead. Others thought she meant he was NOT good, but that Dumbledore is really and truly dead.

She further clarified the Dumbledore is dead bit later, saying he's not only merely dead, he's really most sincerely dead. No, that's not a direct quote, but bonus points to folks who sang that bit of text and/or know where it's from. She DID say that folks had best start moving through the other stages of grief besides denial, because Dumbledore isn't coming back.

Come on back out here, Stephen and John. And while you're at it, bring out some tall stools. And a foxy newsperson from CNN to moderate -- enter Soledad O'Brien, stage right.

Eight more people were brought up to ask questions, each of whom is introduced by Ms O'Brien. They are mixed up, so it seems like there are far more questions for Stephen and John than for Jo, but I can do the math.

Two more for J.K. Rowling, for a total of six. 1. What else will you write? Answer: I've got something for younger kids halfway written, but give me time to get over Harry, please. 2. What question haven't you been asked that folks should ask you? Answer: One Huge Dodge, because it's all about Book Seven. Sorry.

Three each for Stephen King and John Irving.

1. What sort of scary place is your brain? Answer: Some folks talk about what scares them and pay a shrink to listen. I talk about what scares me, and folks pay ME.

2. I hear tell you're a normal person and upstanding member of the community in Bangor, Maine. Please do tell us how that could be. Answer: We've been there forever, and folks in Maine don't really pay us any mind. Also, he noted earlier that he's a husband first, then a father, then a member of his time and place, and only fourth is he a writer. It can't be any other way, because all that other stuff trickles down into his writing.

3. What books keep you awake at night? He acknowledged that he reads his competition, but didn't name any names. He did say that the Death Eaters in HP were very, very scary, and Jo Rowling was thrilled to learn that she had, in fact, scared Stephen King.

1. Some of your stuff is drawn from your life. Tell us about that. Answer: He can only write about his life from a long time-distance. Owen Meany is his Vietnam book, but written 20 years after the war. Cider House Rules talks about abortion, but he put it way in the past to distance it from contemporary discussions.

2. Any plans to write a sequel to any of your books? Answer: No. But some of his characters reappear in different incarnations. He said that Hester and Marianne and Emma are all the same character, but he didn't realize it until after each book was done. Also, he explained his writing process in response to this question. He starts with the last line of his book, then takes a year to 18 months to figure out the story and the characters, and then he writes it all down. So for him, a sequel isn't really possible, because he (in essence) starts each project with the end.

3. Do any of your character's storylines interfere with your real life? Answer: No, not their storylines. But some books draw from his memories of time and place, and bring up additional memories that are unpleasant or that he finds he still isn't ready to or would rather not deal with. In particular, he mentioned A Son of the Circus and Until I Find You here.

Final question from CNN chickie: If you could invite 5 of your own characters to dinner, who would they be?

I would choose to dine alone. But if I could invite Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Owen, I'd like that.

Rowling: After a bit of waffling, chooses Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore and Hagrid.

Irving: After a bit of additional thinking aloud, chooses Dr. Larch, then says due to his use of ether, he wouldn't eat much. Then chooses Patrick Wallingford from The Fourth Hand, Owen, Marianne, Hester, and Emma.

Standing ovations all round. Exeunt, stage right even. Good night, everyone!

EDITED TO ADD: Be careful reading through comments, since HP theories show up from time to time.

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( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 3rd, 2006 06:47 am (UTC)
Thanks Sooooo much for posting this!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 10:55 am (UTC)
Thanks for the great recap, Kelly. I love your theatre patois! What a lovely literary evening. Was it a large crowd?


End scene. (Head drops down)

Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:49 pm (UTC)
sold-out crowd of 6,000 (although there were some empty seats here and there)
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Aug. 3rd, 2006 11:26 am (UTC)
WOW! Great recap...I feel like I was there. How many people were there? Was it packed? How did you get tickets? How thrilling. I bet you're fired up to write today! Talk about inspiration!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:51 pm (UTC)
sold-out crowd (with some empty seats), bought tickets from Ticketmaster, and that's about it.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 11:56 am (UTC)
Thanks for all the details, Kelly!
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Aug. 3rd, 2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. Very interesting!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 12:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 12:52 pm (UTC)
Kelly, That was wonderful! Thanks for the details.

I was thinking of you last night. I'm glad it was great.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:06 pm (UTC)
Monty Python and Snagglepuss.


Great recap, Kel.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:54 pm (UTC)
Python? Nay, lassie, it's the Coroner from the Wizard of Oz!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
Wow. Thanks for that. Excellent!
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Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC)
Disclaimer: I took no actual notes at all. I stayed up to post because I knew that otherwise I'd forget the questions, etc., whereas last night I was still revved up and able to recall things.

I should note that I was thrilled with my interpretation of the Snape answer, because I have my own personal Snape theory. This will not have a spoiler in it, because I don't want to make assumptions, but my theory is that Snape is actually a good guy who has remained faithful to Dumbledore throughout the years, and will turn out to be heroic near the end of the series. The next book will tell.
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(no subject) - kellyrfineman - Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this!!!! Sounds like it was a most excellent evening! Wish I could have gone! :)
Aug. 3rd, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, well LA SCBWI sounds awesome, too -- wish I could be there!
Aug. 3rd, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, Kelly. Thank you for taking us there with you and letting us perch on your shoulder. I so enjoyed this!

Aug. 3rd, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Very nice, Kelly -- thanks :)
Aug. 3rd, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC)
I felt like I was there
Thanks so much for writing that up. Wow, what a fantastic evening. Soooo glad you wrote that up for us. I felt like I was there.

Aug. 4th, 2006 05:22 am (UTC)
Re: I felt like I was there
I'm glad I could share. Only I neglected to mention how sexy John Irving's hair is. Because really, he looked pretty hot. By which I mean attractive, not sweaty.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Aug. 4th, 2006 05:22 am (UTC)
You're welcome.
Aug. 3rd, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC)
What a treat! Thank you so much for the notes, Kelly. It sounds like it was an absolutely wonderful time!
Aug. 4th, 2006 05:22 am (UTC)
It was most excellent. And a bit inspiring. And I've been needing some inspiration lately, so it was extra good.
Aug. 4th, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a fantabulous time. Thanks for sharing.
Aug. 6th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC)
Were you taking notes? I was sitting next to you- and I didn't see you move your pencil hand. I'm impressed.
BTW- you forgot to mention JK's cool shoes.
Aug. 7th, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
Sorry I'm so late to post but I had to thank you so much for taking me with you to this awesome event! This is one of the best things I've read all week. I really appreciate all the details. I'm glad you had a wonderful time. Thanks, Kelly!
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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