It’s been a while since RUI’s had a lineup of readers I’ve either met before or actually know well enough to call “friend.” There’s Jacob Hall, who I know of because his name knocked around the Columbia Creative Writing Department coming after the usual words, “Do you know….” Darwyn Jones has performed at two 2nd Story events I had the chance to attend (both for free). Jael Montellano is a person I’ve both talked to and seen perform, both times at Two Cookie Minimum, which I haven’t been to in ages, but there are free cookies and cheap enough drinks, so going is a must. Finally, there is Miss Liz Grear. I’ve known her since my sophomore year back in late 2011 and since then I’ve seen her mature into one of the best writers I know. She doesn’t even know how damn good she is, and this isn’t me gushing about a friend, this is me saying what loads of other people have said.
But enough of that mush. I paid my $3 cover and talked with Brendan at length about our latest successes and woes until the readings began. First up was Jael with some Jonathan Safran Foer from his novel Everything Is Illuminated, a scene that involved driving in Ukraine with an old man, his grandson Alex, and their dog, the grandfather’s “deranged seeing-eye bitch” named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. In the second half of the reading, her original work was a bit darker, though her work has always leaned more toward the gothic side of literature. Not many reading series feature authors like that. Of course, most authors today would be too damn afraid to touch the genre, so props to her for diving in and excelling at it.
Jacob Hall read from To Kill a Mockingbird and asked trivia relating to it (which I won because I’m amazing, smart, and was more desperate than everyone else for a free book and a free shot), and read a piece of his own involving relations between a man and a woman, though most memorable was Bronwyn’s introduction for Jacob, in which she described a tutoring session with him where he turned in a piece about a “beautiful girl in the desert riding a stick horse.” It’s certainly an image that sticks.
Mr. Darwyn Jones had us all in fits and giggles. First, he read from Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding, and when pulling out his trivia afterward, he shouted, “THIS WAS FROM CARSON MCCULLERS’ THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING. THIS TRIVIA HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING.” Instead, the trivia was about “Attitude Adjustment,” and each question started with those two words. We learned that not only is “Attitude Adjustment” a drink made with Bailey’s Irish Cream, root beer schnapps, and peach schnapps, but it is also the name of a 6-man rock band struggling for fame. Later in the night, he read from his own work, a piece he’s performed at two 2nd Story events I’ve been to in the past year. It was a little disappointing to hear this story for the third time instead of something brand new, but these things happen and there’s not much else to do but try and enjoy it, which wasn’t too hard.
Finally, lastly, there is Ms. Liz Grear. The published work she read was from I forget what, mostly because her own work stuck with me so much. It was a piece I’d read on her Tumblr, but watching her perform it was an entirely different experience. It was a list of reasons why she’s selfish, and she swiftly runs down how she makes her boyfriend jealous, wakes him up in the middle of naps just to see him squirm, and after catching a garter, she slurred, “You can catch all the garters you want - I’m never getting married.” But in the end, she loves him, and he loves her. Whether or not it’s fiction depends on who you ask.
Afterward, we all mingled, I got my free shot (Malört. Always.), I talked about OkCupid and Tinder with Brendan and Patrick, mostly about how those sites are the dredges of the social media-dating combo boom that’s happened in the past couple years (fucking awful in my opinion). Then we all got frozen yogurt at I took this photo.
It doesn’t give you money. It takes it away.
Pertinent information - right after the reading, a few of next month’s readers were announced, with one spot in need of filling. It has been a considerable amount of time since I’ve performed at a reading/performance series and I’m jonesing bad. With every reading, there’s a rush, a marriage of nerves and guts, anxiety and excitement, and it gives me a chance to gnash my teeth and reach for throats. So the moment the hosts said they were in search for a fourth reader, I immediately told host Behnam, “I should read next month,” because I’m an arrogant little shit with no shame, censor, or self-respect. About three hours later, I emailed him saying that if he hadn’t found a reader yet, that I should be that reader, attaching three samples of writing. Within six minutes he replied.
"Jesus, that happened like three hours ago."
What can I say? I like getting things out of the way. So, will this able-bodied faux-professional get in on this wonderful reading series? Let’s hope. If it’s anything like it was yesterday, I’m excited. The bar this time around was as raucous and drunk as ever, as it should be.