Rick Bass, an environmental activist and author of 30 books, read from his most recent work, “The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes” in the Otto M. Budig Theatre at NKU’s University Center Wednesday.
After thanking the event sponsors, the Friends of Steely Library and Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, Bass stressed the importance of staying in motion.
“[It’s] the only thing that you can do to keep from going crazy. Don’t think about winning or losing, just keep moving,” Bass said.
It is common for writers to write eulogies of their favorite mentors when they pass away, but Bass stated the sadness of the fact that those who pass do not get to hear or read those kind words.
That’s when he decided that he was going to visit his literary mentors and tell them everything that he would otherwise put into a eulogy.
“Of course I don’t just say, ‘I’m going to tell you how nice you are before you die,’ but that was kind of what it was,” Bass said.
At the same time, he started cooking, and loved it.
“I started to think I was a pretty good cook…but what I would never do was cook for somebody else in their kitchen.”
That’s where the brilliant idea for “The Traveling Feast” flourished — a documentation of his travel to show gratitude to all of his favorite literary mentors, by cooking a nice meal for them in their kitchen and warming their hearts at their dinner table.
When he read from chapter four of his book, the crowd fell absolutely silent. Everyone in the room was drawn to the specificity of Bass’ description of his feast with Denis Johnson, an American writer and mentor of Bass, and Johnson’s wife, Cindy.
“…Back up into Denis’ Valley, following an intricate system of logging roads more washboarded and torturous than my own. The glass casserole dishes and metal pots and pans jangle and clatter rhythmically, and the dust of autumn plumes. Our teeth rattle, the windows are down, music’s playing,” Bass read.
At the finish, the crowd erupted in applause.
During the Q&A portion of the event, Bass spoke about the reality of being a writer.
He discussed the revision process, the effect that location has on the pace and energy of his writing and how busy his schedule can be when juggling his literary career and his activism.
His advice to young writers receiving peer review in college is to accept and use the ideas shared by your peers about your work; however, it is also important to stay true to yourself and to have an equal mix of confidence and humility.