WRITERS WITH DRINKS: resuscitating literature in crisis

Saturday, August 11th 2012

At the latest Writer’s With Drinks, host Charlie Jane Anders rode in on a stiletto-heeled welcome wagon to remind all lovers of literature that our sacred art is dying on its feet. A matter of opinion? Maybe. But, only if you consider reality-tv interviews literature. So… Writer’s With Drinks to the rescue! Beneath the Makeout Room’s glassy prom streamers and in the company of a giant golden bureau and a dingy bear rug, five authors took turns propping up the written word. By the end of the night things were looking, sounding, and certainly feeling “super better” for the world of letters.

My personal favorite reader of the evening was the spirited Javier Zamora (Nueve Años Immigrantes), who will make any attentive listener revisit a latent Pablo Neruda fetish. Neruda is Zamora’s hero but not, as we discovered, his only source of inspiration. Two of his poems featured toys: The first piece recalls a beloved toy ritually preserved in its original packaging from the San Francisco Toys-R-Us. The second toy poem, “To The Drawer Awaiting My Return,” depicts a hodge-podge of well-worn toys that have been driven to place bets on a young boy’s return. The boy, nine years old when he left El Salvador, is now a man.

At face value, the drawer represents an innocence that is forgotten and ‘shut’ away, but after listening to Zamora’s reading a second, third, fourth time I truly felt the friction in his lines: Little toy voices that vouch for the boy’s return. The grandmother, hammer in hand, who fails to open the drawer. The cousin who, “hears toys moving… knocking.” The lines evoke a mysterious restlessness and the agitated ghost limbs of a community and country at the heart of Zamora’s poetry. Love and memories hoarded like toys residing in a sticky drawer back in el barrio, in a space just barely accessible to the boy… and the man:

Closed. Stay that way/Awaiting the day I’m humid inside again.

Closed. I can’t return/Abuelita packed all my toys inside you. She was forty-five the day I left.

Toys. Knock nine times. Every ninth minute. Summoning these hands.

Remember? Remember these hands?/Drawer. I have your only key.

Watch Charlie Jane’s righteous welcome (and her plea for literature in crisis), all the night’s readers, and selected CJA intros and asides in the videos above. This show was big and memorable and all of the readers had a cool kind of synchronicity, and (goddamn!) we should all give mad props to Charlie Jane Anders for putting Writers With Drinks together every month (word! –Ed.).

  1. Charlie Jane Ander’s Welcome.
  2. Pakistani-American filmmaker Saqib Mausoof reads from “Three Cups of Gin”
  3. Salvadoran Poet Javier Zamora reads prose and poetry from his forthcoming book
  4. Erotica king and master storyteller Simon Sheppard reads
  5. Charlie Jane’s pre-intermission advice: Make your ‘gayquaintance’
  6. ‘Dolphnosis’ and Rachel Swirsky intro by the one and only CJA
  7. Science Fiction and Fantasy author Rachel Swirsky (Spoiler: A dead dog’s tongue is involved)
  8. Alternate Reality Gaming Maven Jane McGonigal reads from her book. In researching Jane, I found this beautiful thought tucked away on the bottom of her games page: “Since you’ve come so far, let me share a secret with you. I don’t talk about it as much as the positive psychology influences, but my work also draws deeply on Buddhist philosophy. I am inspired by the Buddhist goal of ending suffering on Earth — and I know that when we are immersed in a good game, we do not suffer.”

Pretty cool, huh? Don’t miss out! Head to the next Writer’s With Drinks here. Watch and read previous coverage of this series here. Sorry, Charlie. Literature may very well be “all f*cking on the ground in a fetal position,” but it’s not dead! Not yet anyway!

– Evelyn Manangan-Price