Sunday, January 20, 2008

Literary readings

Thanks to my status of happy satellite of the D-list, new circles are revealed to me, and I am introduced to events the existence of which I did not even suspect before. My latest initiation was to the literary reading circuit. When L told me that we were going to a reading featuring Ann Gelder, I was not too sure what to expect. Not having much of a point of reference, I remembered a high-school lecture on "the battle of Hernani", and vaguely imagined authors reading their texts with revolutionary ardor, furiously arguing for the need to radically renew their art form.

Things did not quite turn out that way. The reading was hosted in the Bernal Yoga center; I owe to its policy of "no shoes inside" the knowledge that writers, like us mere humans, go to Mervyn's to renew their stockpile of socks. The Bernal Heights neighborhood provided an unexpectedly rich audio background to the reading - a Safeway cart shuffling in the adjacent street, and what sounded to the untrained ear like a duck being chased by a dog.
To be perfectly honest, it was not my first reading, and it confirmed something I did not expect initially: I do enjoy readings. I like to read in the privacy of my couch, following my own pace and going back to passages I enjoy, so I imagined initially that having to follow someone else's rhythm would be more of an imposition than anything. Quite to the contrary, it turns out that listening to someone else has a very soothing quality, and creates a state of mind which is very different from reading the text itself, simultaneously surrendering to it, and paying more attention to individual words so as no to lose the flow. The cushioned and peaceful atmosphere of the yoga center may have contributed to this, but it made me think that the pleasure I had as a kid when I was told stories must have been similar.

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