Arts What I Remember about the Genius Awards
posted by October 23 at 10:59 AMon
There were a lot of people. At the invitation-only portion of the evening, when the Stella Artois flowed freely, the main room was packed, but in the blur that is my memory I see less than a dozen people: Hugo House’s executive director Lyall Bush in a leather jacket; nightclub entrepresario Linda Derschang in a black t-shirt; the poets Shannon Borg and Anna Maria Hong, looking radiant; artist/blogger/podcaster/robot-builder Bre Pettis in the argyle sweater seen here; Sarah Rudinoff in a gold jacket; Scott Lawrimore in pinstripes; and… well, that’s about it. At 9 pm, the doors opened to the public, and 1,500 people filed in. Har Mar Superstar got people to dance while stripping down to his underwear, and his set was followed by Aqueduct.
I don’t remember a single conversation the entire evening—I get nervous being on stage—except, at the start of the night, talking to Jonathan Raban’s daughter about why we each love Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. And about what it’s like to have a dad who writes about you in his books. (She’s in Passage to Juneau and one of the essays in My Holy War.) The one quiet moment I got with Jonathan, we were in the Henry Art Gallery’s giant elevator, doing an interview that’s being edited and turned into a video file as I write this. Interviews with all of this year’s geniuses will be online later today.
Later, Raban gave an acceptance speech that was the talk of the night, and if I tell you what he said you’ll accuse me of tooting The Stranger’s horn or some such. As is your right. But in case you weren’t there: He talked about The Stranger’s coverage of the Kyle Huff shooting—he singled out the reporting of Eli Sanders and Megan Seling—and about the cover of The Stranger that week (a close-up of the blue siding of the house where the shooting happened), and about what the Slog has done to change local journalism, and about his surprise that a “young” and “cool” and “hip” paper would give this award to an “old,” “not cool,” and “not hip” guy like him. It was gracious and unexpected and the whole room shut up to hear him say it, which is more than they did for anyone else’s speeches.
That is all I remember.