I enjoyed very much the first evening of the conference. Mind you, getting there was rough, what with running around, bad traffic, jet lag, and the uncertainty of whether or not I would get to hear a speech I'd been very much looking forward to. Unfortunately, when I registered for the conference, the banquet at which Douglas Gresham (Lewis's stepson, who is co-producing the Narnia film(s) and has written a few books about Lewis's life) was to speak was "sold out". I had assumed when I saw this on the website at the time I registered that this meant a la carte tickets to it were no longer available. I reassured myself that it could not possibly mean that the full registration, which the website clearly said included all events, did not, in fact, include all events any longer. So I was miffed when I arrived and found out that I did not have a ticket to it. But I was also reassured by the very nice people at the registration table that there was a reasonably good chance someone might not claim their ticket, and when connielane and I returned that evening a few mintutes after the start of the event, I was pleased to find that there was indeed a leftover ticket I could use. So that was my little eucatastrophe of the evening. ;)
The banquet was quite nice, and we enjoyed mostly listening to and occasionally participating in the conversation with other people at our table, including one of the admins of a Narnia fan site, NarniaWeb. I seem to recall someone on my flist asking me a while back if I knew any good Narnia fan sites, and at the time I didn't. I haven't looked closely at this one yet, but based on my conversations with the admin I met (I also sat next to her and chatted with her a bit before one of the sessions today), I suspect it's worth checking out.
Gresham's speech was definitely the highlight of the evening. He is an excellent speaker, with a lovely, resonant baritone voice. He was humble and funny and had some really interesting things to say. My favorite was a story he told in response to a questioner who was waxing poetic about the love story of Lewis and his mother. To make a long story short, Lewis was trying to be chivalrous by stepping in front of Joy when danger was afoot, and she just wanted him to get out of the line of fire of her rifle. *snerk* This, among other things he said, made me really want to see Shadowlands again. He had high praise for Debra Winger's performance, saying that it was very true to how his mother was in real life.
This morning we started off with breakfast at IHOP, and then went to the first of the academic sessions. I listened to the first part of a presentation on Lewis and Tolkien, which focused on the theme of kingship in Narnia and Middle Earth--Aslan, Aragorn, and their similarities to Christ. I then slipped out and joined connielane for the rest of the panel on "The Magician's Neice"--that is, an author known to most of us as JKR. We heard a very interesting presentation on the issue of House-Elves, and how their situation may be more analogous to that of mid-twentieth century housewives than to other oppressed groups. It was a line of reasoning I had not heard before, and one which the presenter made a very good case for. The session ended with a presentation by John Granger, who I had previously enjoyed listening to at Nimbus 2003, and whom I was glad to hear from again. I was pleased that he seemed to have backed off from the H/Hr thinking a bit. But what I enjoyed more was his discussion of alchemy in Lewis's Space Trilogy, which I have recently been reading.
The second session was not quite as interesting as the first. I fought off sleepiness during a discussion of physics and "natural magic", and only woke up slightly when we heard from the next presenter, who has written a curriculum for teaching LOTR to high school students.
After some lunch, we went to a keynote session where we heard two Lewis scholars present on various aspects of his life and work. They were really good, but jet lag was getting the better of me, and I had a pretty hard time focusing well enough to remember much about what they said. I really hope we'll be able to get some hard copies of papers from the various academic presentations from this conference, similar to what Nimbus 2003 participants got.
Anyway, after that, we decided to skip the afternoon academic session, and headed back to the house for a break. But before we left, I went back to John Granger's booth to get a signed copy of his new book, and had a very nice chat with him. He's so friendly and energetic, and even though I think he reads into things a bit too much in some cases (particularly the Philip Pullman=Lockhart thing and anything that requires Dishonest!JKR), I really can't help liking the guy a lot. And I think he has made a good case that JKR uses a pretty significant amount of alchemical symbolism in her books. I'm looking forward to reading his new book, and also to hearing him speak again at Lumos in Las Vegas.
Anyway, now we're just hanging out for a bit before we head back to campus to see a performance by David Payne, an actor who has portrayed Lewis in stage productions of Shadowlands and the like. More to come...