amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Queering Up the Festival

Transgress took place last night at the Ottawa International Writers Festival for the second year in a row. Back, this time as a host and a feature was Ivan E. Coyote, who co-hosted with the glamorous and entertaining Mikiki, who prefers to be referred to in the plural rather than as he or she, so that’s what I’ll do. Ivan and Mikiki hosted a fabulous, fast paced show to a packed house. Next year this event needs to go in the auditorium.

Actually I think Transgress should be a twice yearly event and it should be more than just one evening, but a whole week. I don’t think Gareth Kirby of Capital Xtra and James Moran, the organizers of the event, would go for it though. I know they already work hard enough to put this baby on. But while I’m nudging, I’d also like to see the addition of an open mic of some sort, because other events that used to do this are gone or in suspended animation: Dirty Girls organized by Nichole McGill or Talented Tongues, organized by the Capital Poetry Collective. We simply need more opportunities for those transgressors among us to express all of this stuff to those who need to hear it.

Transgress is a chance to celebrate and support acts of transgression by those who daringly live and write outside or at the margins of conventional society to challenge those conventions and very importantly inspire lust, desire and out-of-control anarchistic fervour.

Mikiki set the bar high as far as acts of transgression with their hilarious and provocative descriptions of recipes involving persimmons and truffle oil inserted into the assholes of lovers. Once they had done this, I don’t think anyone in the audience who might have been shocked was going to find the work of the writers shocking after Mikiki’s forays into the scatological. It was an ingenious method of putting everyone at ease. And anyone who felt uncomfortable with hearing about Mikiki dipping fingers into ass and then sniffing them delicately, talk about fisting, PCP and sex with big daddy didn’t belong in that group anyway.

The first reader was Joey Comeau, who with those beautiful blue eyes of his, definitely belongs on my top ten list of sexiest male Canadian writers. After this festival there are at least four of them to add. Yum.

He read from his novel, “Lock Pick Pornography” (Loose Teeth) in which his main character makes crank calls to strangers in order to talk about the complexities of gender, steals tvs from straight neighbourhoods and tells the manager of a McDonalds that coke has made him gay. He also read from a collection of new short stories, which contain letters to companies like Master Card, harassing them for the money they owed.

Next up was the mesmerizing Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco, who opened with a poem, which he read once slowly, his voice like the insistent whisper of a lover and then read again faster, the rhythm like an approaching climax. It was highly erotic.

He read from a futuristic, fanciful story about an epidemic; the story mentions the propagation of sexuality technology, terrorists, the future, an inoculation procedure targeting males of sexual age, youtube turning every channel into a glory hole, sexual repression, circle jerks, a ransacking of souls, sexual apartheid between the infected and the cured. The story may have been new; I’m not sure, but it isn’t in his short story collection “Killing Me Softly Morir Amando” (Suspect Thoughts Press).

He also read from his first novel, “Flesh Wounds and Purple Flowers: the cha-cha years” (Arsenal Pulp Press). I have to say when he read in Spanish it made my nipples hard. Some nights I really wish I was a boy, damn. (See the beautiful photo of Francisco taken by Charles here.)

His writing is intensely lyrical, playful and provocative. He read with the confidence and joy of someone who loves what he’s doing and that joy was infectious.

Ivan E. Coyote was the final reader/performer. Ivan read a bit but mostly looked the audience right in the eye when telling us a story called “Dirty Rotten Cock Knockers,” a really hilarious story about going to an Amsterdam sex shop and knocking over some giant granite phalluses. The other story Ivan performed was about sitting next to a Christian on an airplane, who assumes Ivan is a young, upstanding Christian boy. The Christian attempts to convince the boy to not live in sin with his girlfriend and says Ivan should marry her. The Christian hopes his own son will turn out just like Ivan.
Ivan’s reading ended with joyous hoots and claps of the audience.

I wanted and should have given all three readers and Mikiki a standing ovation. They were all marvelous. Ivan will read from Bow Grip (Arsenal Pulp) at the Relit Awards at the festival on Sunday evening at 8pm.

After the reading, I’m sure more transgressions were committed; perhaps we’ll hear about them next year.

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