Friday, October 20, 2006

Worth Every Penny!: Amy Tan at Purdue

Seriously, I enjoyed the free talk last night by Amy Tan, as part of our libraries' distinguished author series. A boatload of people turned out to hear the author give a delightful (canned) autobiographical talk, where the author spoke for over an hour without notes, slightly away from the podium and mike. That placement had the effect of making the talk more informal than expected.

High points included Tan discussing her mother's influence (well-worn territory for Tannites, but I didn't know all the details). Slightly lower dips were the sentimental music that came on cue at the brief reading at the end, and bringing her dog on stage (the minute Yorkshire terrier remained in her soft carrier behind the podium, unseen until the end, when the author brought her out to the coos of the audience, and then Tan had the pooch follow her off the stage...sigh...a crowd pleaser...).

I heard, predictably, that Tan was "VERY expensive." It is interesting to see various authors and where they are in the feeding trough...where a carefully crafted crowd pleasing talk can be used on the circuit if you near the top of Amazon's listings, and where universities will pony up their funds for such. I guess Dickens and Oscar Wilde were in on this at the beginning, while Melville didn't have the lecturing chops to turn a profit there.

There is also a self congratulatory aspect to these events, eerily like a live version of a celebrity interview. At least she didn't talk about herself in the third person like rappers and athletes often do. But still, I enjoyed myself and was moved appropriately by the evening.

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