People of Letters
People of Letters18th Floor Hilton Garden Inn, Tuesday, March 12
Australian literary salon People of Letters served as the intersection of literature and music at SXSW, with writers sharing letters based on the theme, "To the Thing I Wish I'd Written." Brooklyn-based Jenny Owen Youngs addressed Nirvana's Nevermind, effectively a künstlerroman of a young musician. "It was you who wrote me, at least the rough draft of my first act," she claimed before launching into a breathy, quivery rendition of "On a Plain." Author Neil Gaiman wrote to the genre of letters to the editor of softcore porn magazines in a tender and heartbreaking reminiscence of how they shaped his view of sex at age 15. Director and novelist John Sayles shared a scorching address to the national anthem, pointing out that the line "land of the free" was not even true on paper until after the Civil War, and is still not entirely true today. Finally, master asker Amanda Palmer shared a letter to her stepbrother she claimed to have written while drunk, but was so self-indulgent it was clearly not the spontaneous burst of heart-wrenching genius the audience was meant to believe. Palmer's performance was the disingenuous cherry on top of an otherwise authentic and deeply moving evening.