You have to hand it to the Puritan boys, Spencer Gordon and Tyler Willis, they put together an excellent event that drew a good sized crowd, and this crowd was made up of people who do not usually attend literary readings, at least the ones I saw and chatted with. Someone said that it was the most promoted reading they’d ever seen and I have to agree. All the Youtube videos, the posters, the WWF style hoopla attracted a different crowd. In the end though, this was a reading and a damn fine one.
Perhaps in the past, there have been readings held at Babylon’s Night Club on Bank Street, but last night’s was the first one I’d attended and I liked the space. It was cavernous with lots of room to roam around, the bar was well stocked and the stage, sound and lighting all worked. The organizers did an excellent job of setting up the reading, with three brief sets of three readers punctuated by breaks so we could all drink and schmooze in between, followed by the main event of Nathaniel G. Moore and rob mclennan facing off in some kind of WWF style battle, that I have to admit, didn’t really matter to me at all, yet it lured in those with an appetite for the unusual. If you ask me who won this thing, I couldn’t tell you; although Charles has photos of Nathaniel on the floor and rob lifting his hands up in some sort of victory, I suppose. I was busy chatting up the bartender at that point. What interested me were the readings because I enjoy attending readings...so here’s what I remember between the whisky and beer fog.
I was in the first set, sandwiched between Jeffrey Ross and Steve Zytveld. This means that I didn’t pay any attention at all to Jeffrey’s reading alas, but perhaps he read from his story Interlopers (The Puritan, Spring 2007).
I was next in my full slut regalia: mini jean skirt, red garters, fishnet stockings, tied low cut blouse. I did this not just because I’m a raging exhibitionist and attention seeker, which I am, but mainly because I planned to read “Caught In the Rain” (Black Bile Press, Front&Centre #17, 2007) about a woman who gets off watching another woman standing in the rain. I didn’t read from the story that appeared in the first issue of Puritan, Zombie Walk (Winter, 2007) because I didn’t think it would capture the crowd’s attention enough. And this one did. The silence was quite lovely.
Steve Zytveld read next from the Winter, 2007 issue, his Graves and Trains story, which is an excerpt from a novel in progress called The Passing of Arthur King. Steve’s skills as host of the Dusty Owl were telling because he was very comfortable in front of the audience and gave an excellent and dare I say, evangelical performance.
Matthew Firth was up next. He read his wonderful story, “The Rookie and the Whore” (Winter, 2008) about a guy who watches his friends get their rocks off with a hooker. I love Matt’s gritty style. He was totally comfortable on stage and everyone paid attention.
Darryl Berger read next, giving a very entertaining reading of “In The Kingdom of Chicken” (Fall, 2007). Darryl is an accomplished writer with a manuscript of short stories, called Punishing Ugly Children, which won the 2007 David Adams Richards Prize.
Christina Decarie introduced herself to me. She’s the publisher of a great online flash fiction site called Litbits.ca. A number of local writers, including me, have been published there. You should check it out. I’m not sure what she read from. It may have been her story “Dark Coming On Quick” (Summer, 2007). At this point I believe my attention was taken up with the bartender again for awhile. What can I say? He was cute and enjoyed my story.
Following the second break, Kate Heartfield, who like Steve Zytveld, is a member of a fiction writing group I’m in, read her delightful and surreal story “152” from Departures, our chapbook published with above/ground press. The story is about a man waiting at an OC Transpo station for a bus to take him to Ikea. And he waits, and he waits and he waits. It’s an excellent story and Kate read very well, managing to sustain the audience’s attention.
Finally rob mclennan and Nathaniel G. Moore read. rob from “Don Quixote” the story in “Departures” and Nathaniel from fiction from Savage and a bit of poetry from his book, “Let’s Pretend We Never Met.” [thanks for the correction, Nathaniel :) Isn’t it good that at a reading completely dedicated to prose, a little poetry was snuck in?
After the final break, the offical throwdown began with a trivia contest. the best bit was that Nathaniel seemed to know all about rob. Ah how blogging pays off ;)
After that I’m a bit hazy...there was some strutting, some kind of fighting. Here’s Charles’ photo of Nathaniel in action. (be sure to check out Charles' site daily for more from the Throwdown this week. Also John MacDonald has posted more pics and a brilliant a slide show play by play here.) Back I went to chat up the bartender. It was a great reading with fine prose writers and an attentive audience. I’m honoured that I was invited to participate.
Sadly, just when they’ve fired us all up, the Puritan boys are leaving town for the Big Smoke for more education. No doubt they will have as great an impact on their new city as they’ve had here in Ottawa. I hope the Puritan manages to continue and I wish both Tyler and Spencer all the best in their journeys. Spencer, by the way, is an excellent fiction writer himself. Take a look at his story in Departures, “Silence So Large and Complete” in which he goes inside the mind of Pierre Lebrun, the man who shot and killed a number of OC Transpo employees in 1999. We may have a launch for Departures before Spencer departs. It’s not going to be a throwdown alas.