When I was sixteen years old, I had a relationship with a man who was twice my age, thirty-two.He was white and brunet, more attractive than conventionally handsome, with a slightly hooked nose that lends him, in memory, an appearance of far greater maturity than I associate with thirty-two now that I’ve passed that age by more years than what separate the man’s age from mine.But to paraphrase the writer Stefan Hertmans, our memories age along with us.Regardless of the appearance of my erstwhile lover’s nose it’s inevitable that in memory he would possess the remote gravitas of a person in late middle age, a person who might be my parent or professor or boss.The impression is compounded by his name, an old-fashioned man’s name even then, as if he’d stepped out of the 1940s.He even owned a fedora, mouse-colored, soft as velvet, its untended crown reverted to a slightly dented dome as if it hoped to be a homburg.I admired that hat so much in the time I spent with him he finally gave it to me when I left home for college, after which I never saw him again.
It’s been obvious from the beginning who are Broadway Babies and who aren’t. Those who truly can sing, who can give them the old razzle-dazzle, who live for that one singular sensation, have for the most part drawn attention to themselves from the first day of school. They cluster around the Black Box piano during rainy-day lunchtimes and sing The Fantasticks. They wear the Cats sweatshirts to school that they got on their holiday trip to New York. Some of them, like the Junior named Chad, are enviably serious musicians who can not only sing but play Sondheim, for real, from sheet music. Some of them, like Erin O’Leary, don’t just sing but dance like Ginger Rogers, having apparently put on tap shoes at the same time as they took their first steps.
Mark your calendars! For the fifth year, The Common is preparing for LitFest, a weekend of events to recognize and celebrate contemporary literature. In conjunction with the National Book Awards and Amherst College, The Common will celebrate extraordinary voices such as Jesmyn Ward, Susan Choi, Laila Lalami, and Ben Rhodes.
LitFest will be held on the campus of Amherst College from February 27th through March 1st. For more details, visit the LitFest website. But first, read on for recommendations from the participating authors.
Recommendations: Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward; Trust Exercise by Susan Choi; Battle Dress by Karen Skolfield, and The World as It Is by Ben Rhodes.