@ the Elbo Room
June 4, 2010
Better than: Reading the latest vampire novel at home, alone.
Last fall, Evan Karp made a name for himself on the local lit scene by reviewing nearly every event in the city's renowned LitQuake Festival for the online community-journalism hub Examiner.com. As the web site's literary culture correspondent, Karp has since covered a dizzying range of gigs, appearing at all the recurring reading series in town. He's written about, videotaped, and posted online his encounters with scores of the novelists, storytellers, poets and otherwise word-obsessed performers that make up the Bay Area's irrepressible literary scene.
Six months back, Karp and Rajshree Chauhan launched their own spoken-word series, Quiet Lightning, with an inclusive, submission-based model that pairs relative newcomers alongside veteran authors. In addition to the monthly showcases, which bring good reads to a variety of venues--from art galleries to nightclubs--QL now also publishes a little 'zine, available for purchase at the shows, comprising the works of the folks on stage.
To celebrate QL's sixth-month mark, Karp asked a dozen of San Francisco's top literary figures to appear in a blowout reading Friday night at the Elbo Room. The enthusiastic assent of these world-class writers and scenemakers, from Stephen Elliott (The Rumpus) to Jennifer Joseph (Manic D Press), underscored the respect the QL founder has earned for his tireless commitment to the cause. As expected, the Mission joint was packed with a mixed crowd hot for live-action words.
A handful of generalizations can be made from this gig about the current crop of Bay Area writers. For one, they lean toward subject matter with meat on the bone -- they're unafraid of gritty realism, sardonic raunch, and candid sexuality. Two, they're open-hearted yet not schmaltzy, a tender emotional core driving their creative output. Three, they often weave their stories from personal experience -- the work can feel confessional, sure, but it's clearly connected to the greater world. Finally, they are all professional performers with distinctive styles, both entertaining and engaging.
Here's a quick breakdown of QL 6 in order of appearance:
Jon Longhi reprised a popular piece about a gig he once did in the men's bathroom at a rock festival. He also demonstrated his love for the authentic (a/k/a unwashed), punk way of life. Paul Corman-Roberts embraced the city's dark side with his typically high-wire delivery about "dreaming the crazy dreams of the possible." Sarah Fran Wisby then revealed the lusty cop fantasies that haunt her slumbering hours.
Jennifer Joseph talked about her conflicted approach toward conscious consumerism, pointing out the often riotous downside of organic-food shopping. M.G. Martin thrilled the audience with his hapa (half-) Hawaiian identity politics and consummate truthtelling about living in "Third World style" in a "Second World state" in a "First World country." He's a slam poet of the highest caliber. Ending the first half of the program, Stephen Elliott read hilarious emails to The Rumpus subscribers, in which he confessed, "I can't decide if this is a daily email about my sex life or" the latest updates on his culture web site.
Beth Lisick regaled listeners with her acerbic take on the inanities we often face in the interactions of everyday living. Andrew Paul Nelson, another rhythm-fueled slam poet who lives on the stage, proselytized a powerful argument for giving up love and dropping out of college, ostensibly to "do more" with your life, slackers. Daphne Gottlieb, who's got an "A" rep for attitude, talked a whole lotta shit about how "revolution is not pretty" and how she didn't care about the way she looked, all the while sporting an armful of ink, a red sleeveless T-shirt, diamond brass knuckles, fishnets, and big black boots.
Joshua Mohr bemoaned a sad, broken relationship that ended with the murder of his partner. A true gentleman, Mr. Mohr. Nic Alea spun a tough tale for her mom about the complexities of addressing transgender issues with family members. And Michelle Tea slayed us with a bawdy romp through adolescent punk rock hijinks, wherein she met Joey Ramone and made out with a cutter boy who fancied skirts and combat boots. San Francisco über alles!