The Return of Laurie Notaro

Last night I trekked into DC to catch the Laurie Notaro reading event at what turned out to be the most cleverly hidden Borders store in the world. I first encountered Laurie’s work when my old roommate Julia plastered magnets of Laurie’s book covers all over our fridge and then proceeded to read passage after passage from Autobiography of a Fat Bride, each prefaced with, “Oh my God, you have to hear this!” followed by raucous laughter before her interpretive reading would begin.

Laurie came to the ASU Writers Conference one year and read with Peter Pereira and Tony Hoagland. This may or may not have been the same day she and another writer I won’t name nearly came to blows on the “Humor in Literature” panel, when he referred to her as “the pottymouth” during the session.

Laurie’s reading are equal part readings and stand-up, which is an accurate approximation of her work. What tends to irritate literary types about Laurie’s work is precisely what I find so endearing about it (and her): she’s more likely to use a vivid metaphor or turn of phrase in the interest of causing a chuckle than to, you know, sum up what it means to be human.

But for many of us—the people who trip on sidewalks (as I did after the reading) or who laugh awkwardly (but geniunely) in public or who have ever returned home from work to discover the “barn door” is open without being able to theorize exactly how long it had been the case—that is what it means to be human. You either laugh or are laughed at.

And those who are laughed at quickly learn to orchestrate the laughter, to control it, and take away some of the sting.

I picked up Laurie’s first book and her most recent last night, and I think I may have gotten her another reader in the guise of my friend visiting from out of town, who, in exchange for my likelihood of getting a cocktail afterward, accompanied me to the reading.

Highlight of the event: an audience member asking Laurie what exactly it meant to “play beard” for someone.

Cheryl’s Gone, but Reb’s Still Here.

Last night I trekked on down to the Cheryl’s Gone Reading Series at the Big Bear Cafe. Reb was reading with Adam Robinson and Kyle Dargan. Having corresponded a bit with the latter, I was looking forward to meeting him and hanging out with Reb, even though the trip required me to transfer to a different Metro line and put me into a part of the city I didn’t know.

The good news is, I survived! I didn’t even get lost, although I did panic a little bit. Reb was kind enough to talk me through it.

Cheryl’s Gone is a monthly reading series of local and visiting poets. I’m excited about this for two reasons:

1. It implies that there are enough local poets for more than one event!
2. It implies that poets travel through town on a regular basis!

This is one way in which DC is different than Phoenix.

Adam Robinson read a series of “biographical” poems. The one I liked best was about Kierkegaard. Kyle started off with a great Terrence Hayes poem and then launched into work from his new book, which I liked. He’s also a good reader.

There was a brief musical interlude by a man who inspired guitar envy in me, and then Reb read from Your Ten Favorite Words, which I thought was very gothic, and her new manuscript, which I thought was a unique collision of mythology and late 19th/early 20th Century melodrama traditions.

I met a couple very nice people at the reading, too, furthering my theory that everyone who lives here is nice and wants to be friends.

There’s some visual evidence up over at Reb’s blog!