It isn’t that I never learn, it’s that I do the same thing over and over again sometimes, expecting a different result, until I finally realize there will be no different result. So, the Slice Literary Conference? I’m sure it was fine for most of the attendees; I’m sure the ones slavishly transcribing the comments of agents and editors in their notebooks (“Good work is what matters most!”) got what they came for.
As for me, no. These panels make me anxious and accusatory. If I raise my hand to ask a question, my voice shakes. I don’t believe good work is what matters most to these people. I believe that these people understand that they have to say this kind of thing at a literary conference. So I stayed home today, rather than attend the conference’s second day of panels. Did my laundry and discovered in the laundry room (it appears that many of my neighbors work in publishing) a galley of Joanna Rakoff’s “My Year with Salinger.” Which I read, in one gulp, instead of doing my library school homework.
Rakoff joined a literary agency in her early 20’s, fresh from dropping out of grad school. She’s a decade younger, but I’ve been there: the low-paying publishing job, the shock of the price of a sandwich in midtown, the slightly-but-not-quite compensatory educated gossip of co-workers, the condescending, competitive boyfriend. (I never had an apartment as terrible as hers, however.) Now I am behind on my homework.