Now that was a terrific Boskone. Three of the four panels I was on—"Agency and Free Will," "Lost in the Woods," and "Elves"—were very good indeed, and the fourth, on "The Work of John Crowley," which was being filmed for him, was an absolute stunner. All of us on it rose to the occasion, and outdid ourselves. Some of us were babbling behind the stage for an hour afterward, surging with adrenaline, as if we'd skied K2. And even though my reading was scheduled for the very last half-hour of the con (2:30 pm on Sunday), I had a nice little audience, not all of them known to me.
I hope that someone took notes on those other panels, because all I have are the jottings I prepared, and I would love to put them in the context of the conversations. I remember that on the first, I spoke about Macbeth
and equivocal prophecy. and The Owl Service
: "she wants to be flowers and you make her owls."
For "Woods," I quoted Angela Carter:
“The English wood is nothing like the dark, necromantic forest in which the Northern European imagination begins and ends, where its dead and the witches live....An English wood, however marvellous, however metamorphic, cannot, by deﬁnition, be trackless, although it might well be formidably labyrinthine. Yet there is always a way out of a maze ... But to be lost in the forest is to be lost to this world, to be abandoned by the light....That forest is haunted; this wood is enchanted.”
I love that passage.
Topics touched on included Dante, Mr. Badger, my own Cloudwood, Arthur Rackham and the evil of all roots, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the New-World horror film, The Witch, "The Teddy Bears' Picnic," "Tam Lin" and eyes of tree, rootedness, skylessness, eye-of-sky bluebells in beech woods, the Chalk as stronghold surrounded by trees.
On elves, I quoted Shakespeare again:
“Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot.
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him...”
He pinched that from Ovid; but if you turn to Medea’s invocation in the Metamorphoses, she begins by summoning "airs and breezes, mountains, rivers, pools." They are understood to be animate, essentially. Shakespeare turns that over in "the ebbing Neptune": the god is essentially ocean, the ocean is a god. Elves are not aliens—this is their earth more than ours.
Since I'd been steeping for a week or two in Crowley, of course I had to quote Violet Bramble: "they mean no good to us. they mean us no harm either.”
And I slipped in a quip from my Kingdoms of Elfin preface: they are "particles with charm and strangeness—Huons?"
We all talked about the Cottingley photographs and indeterminancy of scale.
I very much hope that the Crowley panel will be available online. His editor at Saga Press, Joe Monti, moderated; Rich Horton, Steve Popkes, Faye Ringel, and myself conversed. From his editor, we learned that a Crowley manuscript is Nabokovian in its near-perfection. From the notes I brought and others that I scrawled in margins, I see that that I talked about cosmopoiesis, “spheres of bright complexity made only of making” (Engine Summer); of Crowley's perfect command of cadences; of his use of a sublime vernacular, a transcendent demotic; of the interversible otherwise ("Was there any thought about them she could have whose opposite wasn’t true?"); of snakes' hands (in a burst of madness, I coined the adjective "herpetomanual"). And somewhere in the onrush of words I realized that that the Aeolian harp in the Aegypt quartet—the finial, the culmination of the tale—is like Smoky at the end of Little, Big ("something that begun to open in his heart opened further; it let in great draughts of evening air...") is like Rush that Speaks in Engine Summer: all are the instruments of Story, all perfected in their vulnerability. All played upon by chance.
Well, that was a blast.
Among other standouts at the con: There was a brilliant dissection of Joseph Campbell's monomyth by Auston Habershaw (doesn't that name sound like a minor Crowley character?), John Clute, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, F. Brett Cox, and Faye Ringel. Elizabeth Hand (the guest of honor) read from and discussed Curious Toys, her long-awaited novel on the outsider artist Henry Darger.
I had some very pleasant conversations, saw a number of old friends from out of town, had some hopeful intimations and a compliment or two. Boskone always has a good dealer's room, nearly all books, and Small Beer Press had a sale...Hey, I even bought two small prints from the art show: a veiled lady in moonlight, from a scratchboard original by Kate Adams, and an elf in a bramble bush by Lauren A. Mills.
One terrible disappointment: Boskone has always run an awesome consuite/green room rolled into one. There was always a vast range of basics: coffee (with every syrup imaginable); black, green, white, and herbal teas; every sort of milk (from half and half to soy and almond); weird and common sodas; slushy machines; mountains of donated bread from artisan bakeries; scores of dozens of hard-boiled eggs; butters; cheeses; jams; nut butters of all sorts; breakfast pastries; fruits; cookies; lox (if you came early enough); whatever else came to hand. A cornucopia. And given the isolation of the Westin Wilderness, this bounty was an absolute lifeline. Well, this year the hotel cracked down. Nothing was to be served, except mingy pre-wrapped snackoid bitelets. The Westin didn't even put water pitchers on the panel tables, and (I was told) forbade the gophers their own outside beverages. A huge blow, especially as so many of us were reckoning on that consuite bounty for most of our meals.
Bracketing this fair-fortuned con were two near-catastrophes: both averted. The night before it, to my horror, I couldn't find some vital files on my hard drive. There arose nightmare visions of a virus, eating up my life's work like an army of moths. Fortunately, when I ran diagnostics, the problem was only a mislaid pathway, which could be repaired by Disk Utility. Whew. After that, when my ink cartridges all suddenly ran bone dry before I'd printed one page of my notes, I could be philosophical.
Afterward, I was walking negothick from a shared cab to the door of South Station, when I found myself flat on the pavement, pinned down by my book-filled backpack. An entire paving-stone had tipped up like a booby trap in a cartoon and slammed me down. Flying faceplant! Luckily, the counterweight of my rolled suitcase broke my fall a bit. No damage, except a skinned knee and a shaking up, but we complained to the station, and they said they'd cordon off the stone. The next victim, gods forbid, could be a frail old person, or someone with an infant in a sling.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, a delightful weekend.