Sunday, November 22, 2009

Report from New Orleans

Phew...I couldn't figure out how to use my Blackberry to post, but I did figure out how to use the wireless on my lap top, and from my hotel room nonetheless. I know you have to be laughing, but this wireless computing is all new to me and a little intimidating because I don't know the ropes. But once I figured out that my hotel had a wireless connection and how to hook up to it, well here I am.

This is the first SBL conference in a long time that doesn't feel 'magisterial'. It feels small(er), like the conferences I used to go to twenty years ago. The book exhibit is disappointing. It is packed into two rooms - small exhibit halls, and it looks to me like there are less booths and less books in those booths. In one way it was nice not running around a big convention center since the conference is based in two hotels across the street from each other. But the flip side is that things are cramped. And I really miss my AAR friends who I haven't seen now for two years.

The sessions have been going well, although many presenters decided not to come, leaving paper spots and panels vacated. Our working group on Friday lost its afternoon session because of cancellations. The EJCM book review session on Saturday was missing a reviewer, although his paper was read, and one of the coauthors, although his response was read. The James and Q session was missing half its panel, although I heard it was awesome (sorry I missed it). The Moshe Idel session suffered because Idel didn't turn up and one of the reviewers on the panel, so I feel bad for Francis' group on Religious Experience which had put that together. One of the panelists for Elaine Pagel's celebration of the Gnostic Gospels session that I was on couldn't come at the last minute. And these are just the groups I attended or heard about. It is the oddest year in terms of attendance that I have ever witnessed. Let's put it this way. I have been attending SBL for about twenty years now, and I can count on one hand the number of cancellations of papers I can recall. Until this year!

So I don't know what is happening, but I sure hope it is not a trend. And the sooner that we can join back up with AAR the better. And when I say this, I mean REALLY join back up with them.

And a note about food. I am sick of the same menu which includes shrimp, crawfish, catfish, oysters, in all versions and renditions everywhere. And since I am allergic to all these, my one and only menu choice has been steak. It was nice at lunch today to get the breakfast buffet where at least I could get an egg and some fruit.


monkey king said...

Wow, It is odd about the cancellations. Is it because SBL has split from ARR? Was attendance down all around or just presenters? Was there any word on THUNDER? I would love to read that book and wonder who the new publisher will be.

Zephyr said...

That is really strange! Do you have any thoughts on why? So what happened at the James & Q session since half were gone? Just more discussion? Did anyone offer reasons why particular people were missing, or everyone just looked around and said, 'huh'?

Matthew Alexander White said...

Yes, we of the under-thirty crowd are laughing at you. If it makes you feel any better, I still don't know how to use my little sister's iPhone.

Would it be wrong to scapegoat the economy this last year and then try to pretend that its not a trend? Let’s Maybe hope schools can’t comp the trips for people anymore?

monkey king said...

Good point, Mr. White. We have a couple of seminaries here in Austin and they are really cutting back and laying instructors. I think I heard something like half the staff at one of them. It's hard on all of our communities right now.

Rebecca said...

I agree about the food! For some people New Orleans is a food heaven, but not for those who would prefer to avoid shellfish. Awesome panel today!

David Larsen said...

Hi April,
It was nice to get to know you better at this conference. I really enjoyed your "Star Gate" paper. Thank you very much!