Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: BEA

Christopher Hitchens and Me

christopher-hitchensFor those of you who don’t read “Vanity Fair,” Christopher Hitchens is a columnist/regular contributer to same. He appeared at the noon luncheon of the BEA (BookExpo America) and mainly recited questionable limericks. I have to give this to him: he knew them from memory. One was a questionable item decrying the clergy for episodes of pedophilia, which I won’t repeat here for fear of offense.

True story, however: as I exited the Women’s Rest Room just opposite the downstairs hall in which the program was to take place, I saw some people entering a stairwell. One of those people, a rather tall gentleman, was holding what appeared to be a REAL drink (and it wasn’t even noon yet) so this caught my eye, and I decided, “Well, that person definitely is in to the sauce already today, and I’ll just follow that group in to find our seats.” I was halfway up the stairwell stairs when we hit the landing and I realized that the rather tall gentleman holding the drink (it was in a wine glass, anyway, and it certainly did not look like iced tea) I belatedly recognized as Christopher Hitchens, the keynote speaker. I remember thinking that it was too bad I didn’t have my camera with me, but my next thought was to exit as gracelessly as I had entered (i.e., stumbling into the wrong stairwell and almost ending up onstage, it would seem).

This sort of thing seems to happen to me a lot. I ended up in an elevator with Mickey Rooney and his 9th? 10th? wife in Washington, D.C. once at a poetry thing where he was to speak. (Actually, he spoke just a little, sat down, and his wife sang. She sings well.) His wife was quite angry with little Mickey (who came up to about boob-level) that he had “gotten on the wrong elevator.” Apparently, there was a “special” elevator for the star speaker, but Mickey—who was then nearing 80 if not already in his eighth decade—had picked the wrong elevator and therein lies my “brush with greatness.”

With Christopher Hitchens, I didn’t really stay in the stairwell long enough to be identified as an interloper and, therefore, was merely an audience member wondering why he just kept repeating limericks, some of them fairly outrageous, and then shared memories of deflowering various male members of Parliament or some such. I grew up in Iowa. I now live in Illinois. I am obviously out of the NYC loop and most of the audience that day, when Patton Oswalt (a comedian) hosted, seemed to be out of the NYC loop, also. I think there were several deep breaths taken by the audience (and deep drinks taken by Mr. Hitchens) before he abruptly exited, stage left (the very same stairwell he came in) to “catch a plane to London.” Ah, the lifestyle of the rich and famous!

In keeping with that lifestyle, I’d like to share with you, with appropriate attribution, Christopher Hitchen’s remarks, as quoted in something entitled “Diary” on page 82 of the July, 2010 “Vanity Fair.” It is just a small part of a longer piece, but, in light of my remarks above, I think you’ll get the general idea, and I won’t even tell you about the time I ended up in the elevator with Jesse Jackson’s entourage inside the Pepsi Center in Denver during the DNC, BEFORE he was accused of trying to purchase Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-empty Senate seat (which he vociferously denied).

Here is the excerpt from Christopher Hitchens’ diary, the very same C.H. with shom I had a “brush with greatness” in the stairwell of the Jacob Javits Center on May 27th,…although I’m sure he never knew I was there:

“There was a time when I could outperform all but the most hardened imbibers, a generous slug or 10 of Mr. Walker’s amber restorative being my tipple of preference.  It was between the Tel Aviv massacre and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  I now restrict myself to no more than a couple of bottles of halfway decent wine for elevenses, and then a couple more as an accompaniment to luncheon, with Mr. Gordon’s gin firmly ensconced in the driving seat for the remainder of the day.  As an enthuisastic participant in the delights of Mr. Dionysus, I offer no apology for passing down these simple pieces of advice for the young.

Never drink before breakfast, unless the day of the week has a “u” in it.  Martinis go surprisingly well with Corn Flakes, while a medium dry sherry remains the perfect accompaniment to Mr. Kellogg’s admirable Rice Krispies.

It’s much worse to see a woman drunk than a man.  I don’t know why this is ture, but it is, it just is, I don’t care what you say, it just is and you can take that from me and anyway that’s not what I said. (*Author’s note: it is what you said, and it’s sexist as hell!)

And finally, if, like me, you are, like me, a professional scrivener, like me, never ever ever drunk while written an article column piece ever.  It is, perforce, something I never don’t.” (As told to Craig Brown and previously printed in “Private Eye”)

BookExpo America in New York City: May 25-26-27

BEA-FloorBookExpo America is ending. It is Thursday, May 27, 2010. I’d be barraging you with facts, but I boxed up my notebook and sent it home with my leftover books, from my signing from 2 p.m. on at the HWA (Horror Writers’ Association) booth. I’ve been to this for about 5 or 6 years now. I remember that the first one I attended was in Chicago and my book Both Sides Now was coming out, so that would have been 2004. I took my daughter-in-law (Jessica) that time and we ended up meeting one of the founders of Lightning Source and I arranged a book tour of the Hastings Bookstore chain.

Then, the event was held in Washington, D.C., one year, and this allowed my spouse to accompany me and visit various monuments while I trolled the aisles of this largest-in-North-America book event.

It was held in New York City most times, and, because the publishing industry is here, it was finally decided that it would remain here permanently.

Last year’s BEA was very dismal and scaled-back. People were cutting down on all unnecessary expenses and the entire mood was blacker. I helped man (woman?) the BEA booth and heard Captain Sullenberger. Our booth this year was in a much better, more heavily traveled spot, and I had a signing time from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. I wondered if anyone would know me or know about my book.
For whatever reason…(and most said it had to do with reading the BEA information in the programs provided online)…I had an abundance of signers. I haven’t counted yet, but I think I easily had at least 50 people come asking for my book, and I got the e-mail information of all but a handful, so they can be notified of future books, which, in my case, will be the third volume of Ghostly Tales of Route 66: Arizona to California, coming out any minute, and, after that, It Came from the ‘70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now. From now on, all dedicated blogs will have PayPal capability, because one never knows if one’s publisher has distributed the book as widely as one would like.

While here, I managed to take in the play “Fences” with Denzel Washington. I was in the middle of the second row and the production was amazing. (It received a standing ovation.) I will write more about this, but not until my boxed-up-and-mailed-home notes are back in my possession.

After schlepping my books to the Jacob Javits Center and dropping them off at the table on Wednesday, I arrived this morning with my trusty dolly (for eventually moving the remaining books to FedEx) and my bookmarks, business cards and post cards, plus the piece I put together that will go out in a mailing to the active, voting members of HWA some time in June. (Probably after the Printers Row Book Fair and the Glen Ellyn Book Fair.)

Because the time was condensed from what used to be a 5-day event, there was not enough time to hit museums, but I did get in a play (see above) and I attended the Breakfast and Lunch today, in addition to signing for 2 and ½ hours.

The breakfast featured Jon Stewart introducing Condoleeza Rice, who has written a new book that focuses on her family and upbringing. I have many notes of the witty things Stewart said, but those will wait until I recap same back in the Quad Cities. John Grisham was also on the panel, as was the writer of Water for Elephants. Her new book features apes that are being communicated with via sign language and computers at the Ape Institute in Des Moines, Iowa, so I’m going to be interested in reading this one. (Water for Elephants is being made into a movie now.)

The afternoon M.C. was the very same comic that Sean Leary has done articles on recently, the co-star of “King of Queens” Patton Oswalt, who appeared at the Hilltop Theater and was accused of (allegedly) using other comics’ material. I noticed that, this year, instead of an entire book, we got a chapter, at best. Jon Stewart provided a chapter only. Likewise, Patton Oswalt provided only an autobiographical chapter that dealt with his appearances in a comedy club near Vancouver, where the owner tried to stiff him on paying for his hotel room. It was not riveting reading, and I have read all of it, since it was only about 10 pages long. (Last year, we were given South of Broad by Pat Conroy, and I still haven’t finished that huge book, one year later.)

At the noon luncheon, Patton Oswalt introduced Christopher Hitchins. I had just entered the stairwell with Christopher Hitchins, who was holding a drink of something at the time. (It reminded me of the time I ended up in an elevator with Mickey Rooney and his 8th wife, because Mickey took the wrong public elevator on his way to speak.)

Hitchins, who writes for “Vanity Fair” recited limericks. Yes. Limericks. He comes across as a bit of an effete intellectual snob, and apparently this is the way he wishes to be viewed. I do read his stuff, and I occasionally enjoy it. I remember one particular piece about vacationing in Iraq (one particular part that is “safe”) and I remember thinking, “Yeah. That’ll happen…….not!”)  Hitchins left rather quickly to “catch a plan to London” and we were left with a very bright fellow who, in writing about the future, invented the term “cyberspace,” supposedly, and had such a monotonous, droning delivery of what I’m sure may well be a brilliant book that I gave that book to table mate Ellen Datlow

I did keep the ape book and Christopher Hitchin’s, which is entitled “Hitch 22”, but I’m not in the same hurry to read it as I was to read the sequel to “1,000 Splendid Suns,” the author who spoke at least year’s BEA.

I’m at a Holiday Inn on W. 26th Street that is brand new and very nice. My only complaint: no bathtub.

After I boxed up my unused books and the new ones mentioned above, I took the lot to FedEx to mail home. Then, I went to a nearby McDonald’s and ate a burger, since I couldn’t get a cab for an hour. The cab delivered me back to my room and, after going from 6 a.m. till now (11:00 p.m.) I’m calling it a night.
More later from home.

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