On Apr 11 (the usual 2nd Monday) the Makeout Room was taken over by the enthusiastic if somewhat odd crowd of hipsters, litsters, spitsters and twisted sisters that regularly attend The Monthly Rumpus, Stephen Elliott’s literary variety show, porn raffle and rent benefit for Rumpus editor Issac Fitzgerald. You shoulda been there. (There’s always next time.)
The shebang was cohosted by Oscar Villalon, the new managing editor of Zyzzyva (he joins Editor Laura Cogan at the helm). The featured readers were all published in their first issue. With the departure of founding editor Howard Junker, the Zyzzyva torch is passed on and we are glad to note it burns brightly.
Zyzzyva has been hailed as a major literary journal of high academic standing, but one which cheerfully thumbs its nose at the New York establishment: only West Coast writers need submit. On their website, one reviewer (“Serials Review”) notes that “it deserves a place in academic libraries, with the caveat that its honesty and directness may well offend the priggish.” As The Rumpus does very well, indeed, at offending the priggish, this night’s celebration carried the promise of uncompromised high-quality literary acrobatics in the spirit of both the circus and the academy. We weren’t disappointed.
Messrs. Elliott and Villalon set the tone with some opening banter and introductions that evoke the style of TV host Ed McMahon. You were expecting “high culture”? Get outtahere! The Rumpus and Zyzzyva are all about excellence, but the pretentious has no place. Then Stephen reads a selection from his Daily Rumpus e-mails which ties together a girlfriend’s rejection text, the formation of the Grand Canyon, code breakers of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur and the waging of nuclear war. In Steve’s hands, it all fits snugly.
In a meandering monologue that often made us laugh out loud, Aryn Kyle reflected on her life in “the year that everyone is worried about me.”
David Goodwillie began with the announcement, “I’m going to risk it and read the only sex scene I’ve ever written.” The audience seemed pleased.
Erika Recordon’s short story, “Evolution,” begins “My father is a caveman.” You may expect this to be a metaphor, but Erika is perfectly serious.
Matthew Dickman’s “My Father In Russia” has a different take on the father figure, one with memories of the Soviet Union who addresses his son as “Citizen.” He tells us, “I want to walk a cobbled street with him, my arm around his waist like a nurse heading to the opera.” Haunting poetry.
Nato Green’s cerebral brand of stand-up comedy is in the best San Francisco tradition of the likes of Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl: funny for an audience that thinks.
Tom Barbash invites us to, “Imagine me as a woman in her late 20s whose boyfriend has dumped her.” As always, he convincingly inhabits the character.