Thursday, January 24, 2013


Ooh baby ooh baby ooh.

FOR BODY ODOR. Rub White Flour into armpit good. Rub it in there, good. Throw flour onto head, and sit there, flowery. Perform suite of religious gestures. FOR ITCH. Rub itchy area on second person. Let forty-eight hours expire. If second person begins to experience itch then apply White Flour to him or her. Was that effective? Do you still itch? If so, apply White Flour to affected area. FOR GOITER. Be sure you’re not occupying a no goitering zone. White Flour does not condone goitering in a no goitering zone. FOR INFIDELITY. Soothe offending partner with dovelike cooings and other pacific pleasantries. Perform lovemaking as necessary. When offending partner succumbs to the morphine of sleep, bind partner’s arms to bedpost. Arrange for man (or woman) in Batman suit to appear on fire escape. Admit Batman-suited person to premises. Hand him or her container of White Flour. Abandon premises, yourself. Ask no questions, ever again, about anything else. FOR AN ERECTION LASTING LONGER THAN FOUR HOURS. Moisten member. Coat with White Flour. Show physician. Is member still erect? No way! Remit co-pay as directed. FOR GASOHOL. Empty contents of White Flour container into neighbor’s gas tank. Observe neighbor’s ignition strategies over time, including any kicks and slaps to portions of automobile (e.g.,  bumper, tires, odor control tree) that have no ignition function. FOR RUSTIC DESK ORNAMENT. Purchase suitable desk ornament from sightseeing souvenir stand. Drain of water and artificial snow element. Prepare White Flour as for one Griddlecake. Add to ornament and seal. It will appear as if Griddlecake batter fell upon rustic scene. FOR INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING. Prepare favorite White Flour recipe. (We recommend as for Poultice.) Take outside. Offer it, initially, to public. FOR DIRTY SÁNCHEZ. Is that the same thing as Dirty Harry only with a guy named Sánchez? White Flour recommends that you do not feel lucky, when challenged by Dirty Sánchez. FOR SHINGLES. This is a disease that develops in roofers. If you’re not a roofer, then you won’t acquire too many disorders—e.g., “the gutters”, “the dry-wall”, “the soft wood”—named after building materials. FOR OTHER HEMISPHERES. Stir White Flour in opposite direction, in saucepan. Gain attention of saucier. Present saucepan and sauce for inspection. If saucier interprets presentation as gift, be prepared to surrender (but don’t give yourself away.) FOR COCAINE SIMULATION. Blow White Flour up Stevie Nicks’ butt. FOR GENERAL TSO VARIATION. Shovel White Flour into Stevie Nicks’ butt with chopsticks. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Say ‘alleluiah.’ The missiles will fly. FOR MEAL PLANNING. Day 1: White Flour. Day 2: White Flour. Days 3, 4, and 5: White Flour. Day 7: White Flour. On Saturday, we could eat any White Flour we wanted or we could eat no White Flour at all.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Be prepared to read wherever your travels may take you, even
from a smartphone, if necessary. Blurriness optional. 

I reckon that, by now, I have attended and / or managed enough literary readings—from soloist recitals to cattle call events at several national conferences—to aver that I have witnessed better than 2,500 authors officiating at the podium. Some of these readings have stunned me, to be sure, influenced me, and revitalized my faith in literature, while the majority of them have been mediocre, and within that group, I have witnessed several bust-out disasters, and I mean vehicles afire, crashing, amid screams. For those readings (and readers) as well as for the Future of Our Kind, I offer this basic primer on stepping to the podium and offering a sturdy account of one’s writings.

1. BE A PROFESSIONAL. I just love a reader who slinks to the microphone without having selected what he intends to read. He thumbs through a couple books, mutters like a bum, and holds the audience responsible for his predicament. Never mind the reader who arrives an hour late, and must be fed the Big Boy Platter, first, before he can step to the microphone and thumb dumbly through his material. Can you prepare in advance? Yes, you can, Hot Pants, you can apply stickies, if necessary, to your pages, you can be on time, and you can be truly Dependable.

2. COME OUT SWINGING. That’s a double entendre meant to channel the spirit of a boxer, for one, but mostly the spirit of a jazz musician. Be loud. Chase the nerves. If you let the nerves chase you, then your voice will shrink and shrink until it cracks, a sound not unlike a person falling through thin, thin ice into a cold, cold lake. Need to warm up first? Why not sing? I endorse a song, so long as it’s unpretentious, so long as you’re not pretending to be Mr. Five By Five, since, you know, there was only one Mr. Five By Five, and his name was Jimmy Rushing.

3. DON’T EXPLAIN, JUST READ. In all likelihood, you haven’t been invited to preside over a Literary Explanation but a Literary Reading. Show us your work. Don’t launch into lengthy “tellings” that may rival the lengths of your stories or poems. Some explanations turn out to be more compelling than the actual creative piece, leading the audience to wonder why the writer had published the creative piece, as opposed to the explanation. I’m hardly against a few short words to preface a story, or a novel excerpt, or poems, but that’s all: a few short words.

4. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE / KNOW YOUR VENUE. Perhaps you ought to avoid reading your series of gnarly poems—“Gigantic Beef Cutlets, 5 a.m.”—at the annual gathering of the North American Vegan Association. [Aside: I was once invited to read for the Senior Cits group at a synagogue, but all they wanted to talk about was the poor lunch they’d been served; there was no reading!] A daytime audience, for example, in columns and rows, will probably demand more measure, whereas a night-time pub crowd will demand more chaos. Plan accordingly.

5. PLEASE AVOID THOSE FALSE IAMBICS. Not all lines of fiction or poetry are meant to be recited, “whose WEED this IS i THINK i KNOW / his STASH is IN the VILLage THOUGH”, or if they are, then all audience members are meant to go home and register themselves, posthaste, as Next in Line for Invasive Examination. Deliver no two lines the same! You can read slower or faster. With more emphasis or less. Quieter or louder. With potato starch or tapioca starch. With Cholula or salsa verde. You can exclaim. You can hush. You can pause!

6. PRACTICE FOR THE UNEXPECTED. I recommend that you practice reading your writings regularly, and at that, practice with the stereo playing. That is, practice amid distraction, such that you won’t be thrown off-kilter when (A) Riders on horseback gallop through outdoor event* or (B) Engineers with political haircuts heckle* or (C) Chubby man snores in front row and cuts boggling fart—while asleep—that sounds like water cooler gurgling*. (Asterisk = actual event.) Oh yes, The Beast & His Value Set will interfere with a literary reading, again and again.

7. A CONVERSION TABLE ON DURATION. If asked to read for 45 minutes then read for 40 minutes. If asked to read for 30 minutes, then read for 25 minutes. If asked to read for 25 minutes, then read for 22 minutes. If asked to read for 20 minutes, then read for 18 minutes. If asked to read for 15 minutes, then read for 12 minutes. If asked to read for 10 minutes, then read for 8 minutes. If asked to read for 5 minutes, then read for 3 minutes. If asked to read your literature for 1 minute, then read your literature precisely for 20 seconds, including intermission.

8. QUIT ALL THE SELF-DEPRECATING COMMENTARY WHILST ONSTAGE. I just love a writer who interrupts his readings to apologize for the inadequacies of his presentation. He hardly means it, of course. To the contrary, he’s trying to win sympathy from those assembled, and he’s shameless in pursuing such a tack. When he offers—“That giant sucking sound going south isn’t NAFTA, nope, it’s the sound of this reading”—he’s issuing a declaration which compels the audience, in his estimation, to reply, “Come one, man, no, you’re great!” Cut it out!

9. YOU CAN BE TIGHT BUT NOT BLIND. It doesn’t make you tough to empty a fifth of Jack Daniels at the podium, but prepares you, instead, for a series of slurred syllables and awkward stumbles, as your body attempts to reconcile your inebriation with the centripetal forces of the Earth. A drink before the reading can help steady the nerves, of course, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to be “blind” is to invite embarrassment, Hot Pants, not only upon you, but upon the people who invited you to read. Hey: moderation ain’t just a role in a dispute.

10. SPECIAL CASE: IF SCHEDULED TO READ IN THE LATTER ROUNDS OF A CATTLE CALL EVENT. Generally speaking, I do well enough at a literary reading, but I’ve had trouble at the ‘Cattle Call’ events that can occur in and around conferences such as AWP, MLA, or the Waiters’ reading at Bread Loaf. If you go early enough, it’s no big deal, but all that nervous energy can build up, if you’re scheduled to go later in the night. My suggestions: leave the venue at some point; play pinball or pachinko; return a few readers before your slot.

11. WHATEVER YOU DO, MAINTAIN A LITTLE EYE CONTACT. There are probably a few cute people in the room, and you’d miss them, if you didn’t sling your eyesight here and there. You won’t lose your place if you mark your place with the thumb or pointer finger of your free hand. Meantime, check out the hotties. Read to them. You’re not reading to a piece of paper, after all. You’re not reading to a podium. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Laugh at a few of your own jokes, but don’t laugh at all of your own jokes. Maintain an appropriate level of malevolence.  

12. OFFER THANKS. At the end of your reading, don’t forget to thank your hosts, your fellow readers, and the audience. If you’re not in a pub, then proffer an enjoinder such that the audience—including hotties from #11—should join you for conversation at a pub. The reading is one thing, and is great, but community is the next logical thing, the logical outgrowth of a reading, and fine conversation and fine libations should be associated, at all costs, with a great event. I, myself, drink STOUT, but there should be an array of medicaments available for all.

For a few tips on the writer’s lifestyle, see Blogpost to aYoung Poet