Although I wanted the event to retain the overall texture of a reading, the idea resulted in something that was rather, well, not a reading. At one point, the entire audience made a tremendous amount of noise as they constructed a group text based on my story “The End of the World.” Everyone participated, and so this was a great thing, and I got the sense they at least recognized (not as if they knew them) but rather were aware of each other in the audience. In this sense, I successfully moved the center for the reading out from the stage (and myself and Gregory Hishak) and turned it over the audience. Too, the event still focused on the topic at hand, which was The End of the World.
However, the event did do damage the cozy inertia often associated with reading.
Greg H. said as we prepared for it that he kind of enjoys sitting in a crowd that murmurs at the line breaks. He thinks about changing his wall calendars or scrubbing the tile grout that needs attention (or something like that). This element of hearing poetry or prose read aloud and not actually being able to grasp what is being said allows for a kind of absorbing distraction not available in similar venues, such as waiting in the plastic chairs at the DMV, loitering on a street corner waiting for the bus, or standing in line for tickets. Each of these activities has a deliberate purpose. Hearing poetry is perhaps such a pure waste of time that it should not be tampered with.
And then, because I was unsure how things would play and work, Greg H. and I did a reading after break. The evening had progressed an hour at this point, and then continued for another fifty minutes. This was too long. Otherwise, I thought it worked out well.
For a different take, The Stranger covered the event.