Appearing For One Night Only

April 2nd, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Randa, Moorish Girl’s Friday columnist, considers readings from a performance perspective. Or, what about giving the audience a real show? Oh, stop your shuddering — she’s right. You must engage the audience to the best of the ability of your work.

Rappers have a persona and an attitude they carry which attracts listeners and devotees. Persona and attitude go a long way: when I look at writers who have a devoted following, they all possess a certain twinkle in their eye: writers like David Sedaris, Sherman Alexie, Sarah Vowell, and Dave Eggers. But if a reading is a form of entertainment and education, there are two parties that have to take responsibility for their success: the writer and the audience.

. . .

When you go to a Philip Roth reading, do you expect him to sit in a dunking pool, the way Neal Pollack did at his last reading at Bookpeople? You do not. You have a certain expectation of a Philip Roth reading, just like a Mos Def fan has certain expectations of him. You will participate at a different level. You may not get to throw a tennis ball at him, but you may want to throw a good question. Do people actually think before they ask questions at readings anymore? If we expect the reader to prepare, it’s only fair for the listener to, as well.

Yes, in this scenario it’s not just the author who has to come to the party. Randa’s analogy is interesting because it makes sense.

File Under: Square Pegs