The arrangement was that the audience sat in the main body of the store, while the reader, at any given time, was at the mic on a raised stage, in front of a curtain that hid the other nineteen readers from view in a smaller back room. When called, the latest reader would present his or her self-penned introduction to the emcee. Mine went as follows:
Richard Brown is a Scotsman. Like James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, his predecessors in the Scottish literary tradition, he likes to swear a lot, but he’s told us he’ll keep that to a minimum tonight. Like Robert Louis Stevenson, he has taken up with an American woman and settled in New York state; more specifically, Brooklyn. In September 2012, he suffered a serious stroke, but has recovered as well as could be expected. He maintains a blog, at apoplectic.me, intended to offer hope and entertainment to survivors of strokes and maudlin British indie music. He is continuing work on a memoir called “Stroke: A Love Story”. He lives on the border of Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, with three cats and his healthcare proxy and muse.
I had to pronounce “apoplectic.me” for the emcee, but otherwise, the whole thing ran like clockwork. The 20 writers, with their allocated five minute slots, were done in around an hour and forty minutes — bang on schedule, which was a pleasant surprise. I was offered an extra couple of minutes to go on stage first, but having gone to the effort of brutally editing the original, ten-minute version, was happy to let someone else take the spot and the two minutes, and went on second. As tends to be the way, I don’t remember much about being on stage, other than getting a big laugh for a lame crack I’d written earlier in the day about one of the things I’d lost being 35lbs. It was nice, too, to go backstage when I was done and get some compliments about the humor of the piece. I guess everything they say about writers and performers craving approval is true. In fact, many cliches were proved true during the course of the night. The majority of the writers sounded like Sylvia Plath. Particularly the men. In fact, the pieces were generally very… writerly. I suspect that works better on the page, where conceits can be chewed over a little more. I was glad that my piece was written, and, with Beth’s direction, delivered, in a mostly matter-of-fact way. I think that, and the choice of a humorous piece, worked well in the setting. Conversely, the poets appeared the be among the more successful readers. More performance-based, I suppose, and with the expectation of a more stylized piece.
Thanks to Tim and Marie for coming along, and for recording my piece. I’ll be posting it on the site in due course. Unfortunately, Beth was laid low by the flu. It was a pleasant surprise, in fact, given the flu-ridden state of the city, that the night wasn’t a two-hour coughing chorus. Particularly, given the stereotype of the amateur writing enthusiast, that we should all have been suffering from galloping consumption.
There were a number of other pieces that either were, or appeared to be, in memoir form. Funnily enough, the pieces that were written in the memoir style appeared to be — whether they were or not — fictional. I wondered whether my piece came across the same way. Given the number of folks who approached me at the end of the night to discuss my experience, I’m guessing the story about the 38-year old guy with the massive stroke was sadly convincing. I was most touched by the 70-year old lady who came up to chat, compliment me on my recovery, and tell me about her recent experience finding herself slurring her words. I guess the piece had some resonance, given that one of the writers performing later in the night, telling the story of his quirky father putting out a fire, spoke not of his “smoke-filled hair”, but “stroke-filled hair”.
It was a fun night, all in all, and I met some nice folks. I should I have brought some business cards. Funnily enough, the cards I pulled out when investigating a bulky pocket were cards from my old employer. But I suppose, on doctor’s orders, we’ve opened a new chapter now.
So to speak…