Villanova or: How I Became a Former Professional Literary Agent
by John Hodgman
Issue #1 • April 1, 2002•Sold Out!
It is my third morning at the annual conference of the Sagebrush Romance and Western Writers Association of the American West (the SRWWAAW). I am installed at one of several tiny round tables in a beige antechamber of the first floor of the Oklahoma City Embassy Suites. This is the one-on-one room, just a few steps up the wheelchair ramp from the hotel’s high glass atrium, with its twinkly canned music and breakfast buffet. I am seated across from a writer named Maria Passel, who is 32 and has a glass eye. She lost it, she explains, when the left side of her face was mauled by a bear.
John Hodgman, writer of The Areas of My Expertise (an almanac of complete world knowledge compiled with instructive annotation and arranged in useful order) lives in New York City. There, he curates and hosts The Little Gray Book Lectures, a monthly colloquium of readings, songs, and dubious scholarship. He is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine and a frequent voice on public radio’s This American Life, where he posed this question, among others: “Which superpower would you choose: flight or invisibility?” (The correct answer is invisibility.) Further fiction, nonfiction, and genres in-between have appeared in The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and The Believer. He has performed at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, as well as on the great stages of Chicago, Philadelphia, and London’s Barbican.
Q&A by Hannah Tinti
Of course it was also a very male world, and I got to thinking of what it would be like to be a woman in this world. At the same time I had been thinking again about the writers conferences I had attended back when I was a professional literary agent—the shadow literary community of the un- and under-published authors that thrives in Radissons and Sheratons and Marriotts throughout the country. I realized that if such an author was still alive today, that would be where we would find her. I also had been thinking of Dick’s visionary experience/mental breakdown, in which he thought he had tapped into a cosmic mind that spanned all of time.