Jonathan Crimmins is a great writer and cocktail conversationalist. A specialist in 19th-century novels and 20th-century poetry, a PhD candidate, a teacher of undergraduates at UW, a short-fiction writer, the creator of an in-progress novel indebted to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Crimmins is also, surprisingly, good at getting dressed, good at navigating stairs while drinking, and good at making small talk with people he's just met.
Evidence: At The Stranger's Genius Awards party on Saturday night, someone approached Crimmins, unaware that Crimmins was a "One to Watch" in the literature category this year, and said, "Who the fuck are you? I love your suit." This encounter took place on the stone steps inside Seattle Art Museum, steps crowded with people and giant camels and slick with spilled alcohol. As for the making of small talk with people he'd just met, Crimmins talked excitedly about such not-overly-exciting topics as the National Archives, downward spirals, Victorian women writers, Donald Antrim's novels, what he does when he needs a metaphor relating to something he knows nothing about (he goes to Google), examples of such areas of ignorance ("I don't know anything about steam engines"), and Ann Pancake.
He wanted to meet Pancake.
I wanted to meet Pancake, too.
Pancake was also named a One to Watch in literature this year. Crimmins tried to find her book on Amazon.com recently but all he could find were, he said, "books on how to make pancakes faster." He wanted to ask Pancake about the transition from writing short stories to writing a novel, a transition she described in last week's Stranger as harder than she'd anticipated. (I interviewed her over the phone.) Pancake was expected to be at the party and Crimmins and I set out to find her.
Problem was, there were so many people and, again, giant camels, and I couldn't distinctly remember what Pancake looked like. I'd seen one author photo.
In the process of looking for Pancake I ran into another One to Watch in literature this year, Teri Hein, who wore a brown jacket with cream-colored dots. "I love your jacket," I said. "Vienna," she said, and then disappeared into the crowd. I ran into a One to Watch in literature from two years ago, Diana George, who surveyed the party and said, "It's swanky, it's nice, it's crowded," and then she, too, disappeared. I may or may not have run into the fourth One to Watch in literature this year, Lou Rowan, because I wouldn't know. I've never met him. And Crimmins and I never did find Pancake, who, according to an e-mail I got from her days later, was in fact there, was wearing a green shirt and black jeans, and was "moving around a lot."
* * *
Speaking of movement: A One to Watch from last year, Ryan Boudinot, has just sold his first book, The Littlest Hitler and Other Stories, to Counterpoint Press. It'll probably be out next year sometime. Congrats, Ryan.