Friday, January 25, 2008

Announcing the February 16 Lineup...

Don't miss the second event in the 2008 Progressive Reading Series, Feb. 16 at the Make Out Room. Catch readings by Charles D'Ambrosio, Vendela Vida, Colm Toibin, Steve Almond, and Michelle Orange.

In January, we raised close to $2,000 for Charlie Brown. Help us raise even more at the next event!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The First

The 2008 Progressive Reading Series kicked off at the Make Out Room on January 19th, in support of Charlie Brown who is running for congress in California’s Fourth District, (that’s east of Sacramento to Lake Tahoe, and all the way up to the Oregon border). The first reader was Adam Johnson, who read a Casablanca-like story set in North Korea, which ended with a chilling sentence about having to build a fence to keep people from throwing themselves at the electric one. Thanks for that image, Adam.

Next up, Ali Liebegott. Ali began by telling a story how she had to replace her social security card recently (her dog ate it and I believe her). Anyway, and I didn’t fact check this, because it’s a blog, not real journalism, but what Ali found out is that Americans are allowed to lose their social security card 10 times before the government cracks down on them. Ten times! Pretty liberal for a government that often makes getting a doctor’s appointment for a simple checkup a red tape KGB nightmare. But what happens on the eleventh? Can they refuse you a new card? Are you forced to move to Canada? Ali and I pondered this during the intermission, but came up with no answers. As for her piece, from her novel The IHOP Papers, it was great. Ali has a charming presence and let us know just because you request a book at the library on famous gay people throughout history doesn’t make you gay. Really. I also asked Ali what it was like to have a book dedicated to her (Michelle Tea’s fabulous Rose of No Man’s Land in case you didn’t know). “Really sweet,” was her answer. I asked her if she was like Trisha Driscoll, the main character in Tea’s book, or like Francesca, the main character in The IHOP Papers. Answers: No and no. Should you read either book? Yes and yes.

Nato Green took the stage next as the official comedian of The Progressive Reading Series. He’s also the official comedian of the Vegan Cooking Series by the way. What we learned from him: Hilary isn’t a progressive and having the the Burning Man vote doesn’t really mean anything. Witness Matt Gonzalez, the man who should be our mayor.

Our host, Stephen Elliott was up next stating that Caroline Paul is hot and she is. He left out the part about her being a great writer though. She is. Stephen read a story called Any Soldier. What we took away from it: War is not a video game. Why do some people persist in treating it like one, though? A question to ponder. Jami Attenberg came up next, on tour from New York to support her new novel, The Kept Man. Jamie read an excellent piece from Sex for America: Politically Inspired Fiction, edited by Stephen, set in the future where cars are illegal (except for in Los Angeles, with the condition they still crank out the entertainment.) “Sometimes,” her character muses, “I miss oil,” On the up side though, her character hadn’t ever been caught in rush hour traffic.

Walter Kirn, former Mormon, stated he never thought he’d see someone he saw in church as a kid within striking distance of the presidency. In addition to his own piece, and stating that “Hilary is not a progressive,” he read The Crowd at the Ball Game, by William Carlos Williams, likening the experience described in the poem as similar to the Nevada Primary.

And finally, the Bard. Tobias Wolff. Andrew Foster Altschul gave a fitting introduction for Wolff saying there is no equivalent to Poet Laureate for fiction writers, (and just why is that anyway?) but if there were, Tobias Wolff would surely deserve the honor. And so Vietnam veteran, sterling writer, high commander of the short story and man with charisma, Tobias Wolff took the stage. He read Say Yes, a story about a husband and wife washing the dishes together that was wrought with so much tension my teeth started to hurt. Husband and wife washing the dishes. Mundane, yet the foundation of their relationship has been shattered with an offhand question asked over the sink.

If anything, and I mean anything, written here makes you wish you were there, come out to the next Progressive Reading on February 16, again at the Makeout Room. On the bill will be Michelle Orange, Vendela Vida, Charles D’Ambrosio, Steve Almond, Colm Toibin, Jeff O’Keefe, plus the Six Word Memoir Slam. What could be better than that? Not much. Advance tickets available at