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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 5


Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, Wyoming
The place we go to get cell reception, by the mysterious cairn in the high pasture, is a half mile down Lower Piney Creek Road, up a long steep grade dividing irrigated pastures where herds of antelope graze and spook as I bike by. The sprinklers labor on through this wet week. The Democratic governor was in the paper the other day talking about the weird weather, probably referring to the stretch of heat in the upper nineties and low 100s. Even the Republican speaker of the state house is concerned about climate change. The hills above us seem embarrassed by the rain, as though they'd rather be sere, yellow. Instead they blush green.

If I were in a different place with the novel, I would roister with my fellow residents; I've been invited. If I were in a different life, maybe I would relax. Instead, I rewrite my novel, every word of it, starting with a blank Word document. I am re-outlining it, every chapter, every theme, every referent and symbol. I'm using 4x6 cards for this, and in idle moments I cycle through them, a mesmeric exercise, watching the whole work tick by like a flip book. Four parts, thirteen chapters each. There go my themes, my allusions, my migrainous hero, his disintegrating vanities, my new vocabulary words.

One of my note cards reads: I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever write another novel. But I will finish this one.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.

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