reading series

March 26: Brent Cunningham and Karen Yamashita

pictures coming soon

Rodney K., who gets a gold star for coming to just about every one of these, points out that I'm becoming lax on my 8pm cut-off time rule; I actually let people in at 8.20 last night, which is when the reading finally started. It seems people are getting wise and taking advantage.

Brent: hilarious and pitch perfect "Group of 8" - "The first thing you should know about the Group of 8 is that there were only 6 of us" - an incisive, insightful send-up of movements and manifestos and the puffy, incestuous politics that drive them, which, after it got us loosened up by laughter at the punch lines that came with the timing of a good stand-up routine, hit us with a few subtle but powerful truths. What is this thing we call writing? The poignant beauty of the narrator's description of what his life was like when he gave up any idea of art or writing altogether - "The happiest two months of my life" - made me want to go, as he did, to an "upscale supermarket" and just run my hands over the merchandise, wondering at its thingness. What would happen if I stopped being a writer for a day, a week, or even a minute? A group that isn't a group, writing that isn't writing, art that isn't art. How exhilarating and refreshing and frightening!

The stage was set for Karen Yamashita's work that at first seemed more somber and serious than we could possibly bear after Brent's. She told us the fascinating history of Japanese immigration to Brazil, and the more recent re-immigration of Brazilians of Japanese descent back to Japan; did you know there are more Japanese in Brazil than any other country? About 2 mil. or so. But as she read on, she approached the subject with such wit and vivacity that it seemed the perfect complement to Brent's parody, lingering on the extensive use of the bidet in Brazil and Japan and delicate issues of cross-cultural bathroom etiquette.

Karen finished with a list of irreverent, insightful "commands" derived from her observations of Japanese, Brazilian, and American cultures, and I wish I could remember more of them now. Of course one of the American commands was "Just do it."

Afterwards a few of us hung around the kitchen drinking beer and coming up with ideas for "Missed connections ads for the gods" - "Me: mortal, somewhat confused, wearing a diaphanous gown and standing alone in a meadow; you: giant white bull looking at me from a hundred yards away with piercing, intelligent eyes..." Had to be there. Then out front of the building debating the Giants' chances this year. Then they were off...

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