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Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Not to Write a Review, and Other Lessons from Trampoline Hall, the Inventive Lecture Series

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 12:41 PM

Andrew Leland at Trampoline Hall - ROBIN HARDWICK
  • Robin Hardwick
  • Andrew Leland at Trampoline Hall

"Grammarians would agree -- there is no such thing as a two-part question," artist and lecturer Misha Glouberman declared before a Q&A on Tuesday night. "Just ask two questions!"

Glouberman hosts Trampoline Hall, the unique lecture series in which invited lecturers to speak on subjects outside their area of expertise and then take questions from the audience. For 10 years now, the series (created by Glouberman and author Sheila Heti) has enjoyed success in Toronto. Tuesday night, Trampoline Hall -- and its local lecturers -- hit the San Francisco Jewish Community Center as part of a tour in support of their book, The Chairs Are Where the People Go.

The first lecturer was Andrew Leland, former managing editor of The Believer. He shared a story about his days as a naive music editor at the Oberlin College newspaper. Tasked with reviewing a fellow student's experimental music album, he knocked out the kind of piece that was (in his words) the "type of pretentious music review that was one line about the album, and twenty-four lines about my thoughts and experiences with this genre of music."

Sharp criticism of the review came not not from the musician, but another student in a letter to the editor, accusing him of "folksy posturing," "aesthetic stevedoring," and being more concerned with getting his own, uninformed opinions across instead of genuinely giving the music the review it deserved. This upset Leland's overconfident college self, mostly because he found it accurate.

What had he learned? an audience member inquired. "That writers have more of a responsibility than I realized."

Next: Impostor syndrome and the mysteries of the gym.

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Robin Hardwick


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