Greetings from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Here in this Basque Country capital the intrepid hometown team of Neil Campbell, Nancy Cook and yours truly are anchoring the plenary sessions of this once-every-five-years two-day conference along with Nevada Writers Hall of Fame honorees Phyllis Barber (How I Got Cultured), Gregory Martin (Mountain City), and prolific Basque writer Bernardo Axtaga (most recently, The Accordionist’s Son).
Today Bernardo kicked things off with a talk in Basque (simultaneously translated into English) titled “Places: Existing and Non-Existing” (an untranslatable play on words), concerning Ignatius Loyola’s birthplace and the labyrinth of truth in fiction. Later, Nancy used images of old TV shows and real-estate ads to illustrate “McMansions and Doublewides: Social Class and the Rural West” while Neil looped a set of Lakewood photos for “Affective Critical Regionalism in D.J. Waldie’s Suburban West.” Occasional WLA attendee Monika Mandinabeita discussed Frank Bergon’s Shoshone Mike, and conference director, WLA member, and University of the Basque Country Professor of English David Rio gave a critical reading of Martin’s novel. See the full program here.
This evening after the last sesssion we trooped over to city hall for a personal greeting from Vitoria’s mayor, who told us to flirt to our hearts’ content, and then we went en masse on a txikiteo to eat pintxos at a few of the old medieval town’s many many bars.
Amazingly, Phyllis Barber’s son’s Denver-based band [see below] opened the conference last night with a nonstop 90-minute high-energy punkabilly performance. They continue from here on a European tour with shows throughout Spain and Italy and crazy all-night drives to get to them.