Monday, March 05, 2007
Rita Mae Brown at The Poisoned Pen
I went to see Rita Mae Brown tonight at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. Brown has a new Mrs. Murphy book out, Puss'n Cahoots, but I'm a fan of her foxhunting series featuring "Sister" Jane Arnold. She's one author I've always wanted to hear because I'd heard she was wonderful and funny. She was all of that and more. You can just tell by her dress, a purple cap, white shirt, lime green overshirt, purple belt, orange pants, and white tennis shoes, that she's her own true Southern woman who will do whatever she darned well pleases. (And wouldn't use darn in the process.)
Brown does a wonderful Southern storytelling performance, and she's a master at it. She started by talking about the mystery format. As she spoke about the conservative format, I took it to mean the traditional mystery. She said mysteries are about a community distrubed by an immoral act, and it's out of balance. The balance in the community needs to be restored by the end of the book - whether or not justice is served, the reader knows who did it, or that justice will be served, or that the balance in the community will be restored. She said genre fiction can be literature, but it's bound by its format.
Rita Mae Brown spent the next forty minutes telling stories, and answering questions. She's sixty-two. She said she doesn't mind getting old; all of the sugar's in the bottom of the cup.
She's very outspoken, but even swears with that Southern grace. She was a classics major, and knows Latin and Greek. She said our kids aren't educated today because they don't know Latin, the basis for everything from government to literature. She said we now tell kids they're not smart enough to learn Latin.
She doesn't use the Internet for research. She goes straight to the original documents, but admits that that's easy to do in Virginia. But she said you can't trust the information on the Internet.
Someone asked where she went to college, and she said she started as a scholarship student at the University of Florida, but was thrown out because of the morals clause. She was active in the civil rights movement, so was thrown out. She said white Southerners who were active in civil rights were considered turncoats to the South.
She made the comment that in the South, you can do anything you want as long as you have good manners.
She did discuss foxhunting, which she's passionate about. She said it's the oldest sport white men brought to America because Henry Hudson brought hunting dogs with him. She said hunting hasn't changed. The pyramids show the pharaohs hunting with couples, pairs of dogs on leashes. She said hunting is still done with couples of dogs.
She ended with, "If you're an adult, suck it up and take responsibility, or die and get out of the way."
Rita Mae Brown was all I had hoped for. She reminded me so much of my teacher, advisor and mentor in grad school, Caroline Arden. Caroline died a number of years ago, but she had the same husky voice from cigarettes and foxhunting. She was from an old Virginian family. She had the same small size and Southern class. I admired her so much, and at times, hearing Rita Mae Brown was like listening to Caroline Arden again.