OURSHELVES’ EXCERPTS: (you and) your friends reading passages from their favorite all-time literature

(Zarina Zabrisky)

I saw Zarina the day after this first event by Ourshelves, on Wed Nov 16, and she was raving about it so I asked her to say a little something. If you’re ever so-inspired, shoot me an email.Evan [evan@litseen.com].

The idea is simple: Bring your favorite book. Read aloud for five minutes. 

I arrive at Viracocha at 8:30 pm. A big black cat greets me by the front door. It purrs and rubs against my foot. Vintage typewriters glint in dark corners. I follow the cat. It leads me to a secret lending library tucked away in the very back of the store.

I brought War and Peace, but Viracocha reminds me of the Satan’s ball scene from Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. The fifth dimension. The magic. Next time I’ll read it. Or maybe Bruno Schultz’s Cinnamon Shops.

Kristina Kearns, the curator of Ourshelves and the Excerpts hostess, shows me around.

The space reminds me of a wine cellar. Dim lights, speakeasy ambiance, cabaret feel. Light jazz fades away and Kristina pulls out a paper with a reader’s name on it from a hat. Elegant and chill, she looks like an expert magician.

When she calls your name, you go up and read. Some readers are shy, their fingers tremble and they stumble. Some sound like they’ve been doing it for living. Each one is a surprise. One woman reads her cousin’s story. The cousin is ten. The story is hilarious.

Look at the list:

  • Book of Memories – Peter Nadas
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  • The Good Soldier – Svejk Jaroslav Hasek
  • The Tunnel – William Gass
  • War and Peace – Tolstoy
  • The Ground Beneath Her Feet – Salman Rushdie
  • e.e. cummings
  • Dylan Thomas
  • The Sorotchinsky Fair –Nikolay Gogol
  • Ketchup and Mustard -Lila Goleman (the ten year old cousin!)
  • Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon
  • Numbers in the Dark – Italo Calvino
  • Jesus’ Son – Denis Johnson
  • The Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
  • House of Leaves – Mark Danielewski

Two hours feel like a wine tasting, a bookstore browsing and a first date—all at once. My literary palate tingles. My mind dances.

I leave book-drunk and stay buzzed for a week.

Find out more information about Ourshelves—and become a member—at their website, or by visiting Viracocha: 998 Valencia St.