Friday, September 23, 2005

Thanks, But No Thanks

As you may or may not know, along with the National Book Festival on the National Mall in downtown D.C. tomorrow, there's also a major protest/rally against the Iraq War scheduled. I've been wondering ever since I heard about it if the two would overlap or even clash in some ways, and it looks like it's started. For some perspective, the various protest rallies appearing on the White House ellipse and near the Washington Monument are about a ten minute walk from the Book Festival on the National Mall.

This article at The Nation reprints a letter poet Sharon Olds sent to the first lady, Laura Bush. For those too lazy to click the link and read the whole letter, it essentially details Olds' internal struggle in loving the idea of participating in the National Book Festival, but not being able to justify attending it and the related dinners when she feels so against the war in Iraq. She closes with:

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.

I understand her feelings, but it is a shame Olds can't put aside her political feelings for what's really a pretty good cause. Aside from promoting writing and reading in general, the fair hosts a lot of kid's programs and it's one of the few places to see so, so many children excited about books. But frankly, I'm suprised we haven't heard more of this. I respect Olds' choice, even if I wouldn't have done the same thing under the same circumstances. My plan consists of going back and forth between the two events throughout the day.

Special thanks to Jen at JMWW for sending us this story.



Catherine said...

Jen's message prompted me to write about this, too. It seems to me that, whether or not Olds intended this, her open letter could have been viewed as an invitation to create a discussion among writers--and even Laura Bush--that would have been very interesting to read.

How were the festival and march?

Hebdomeros said...

You're probably right. I'm sure that was a big part of why she wrote the letter instead of just withdrawing privately.

Both were great. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap. Gaiman looked annoyed everytime a helicopter or particularly loud marcher went by. Gish Jen came to her reading straight from the march. After talking about different interpretations of events, she moved quite nicely into her fiction. It was a good day.

Kurt Streater said...

I read an interesting article on it I would like to share with you...

Hebdomeros said...

Ok, sure. You can post it here as a link in the comments if you like. Or you can email me. There's a link on my blog page, but it's hebdomeroshome at yahoo dot com.