November 30th, 2011 / 4:09 pm

ToBS R1: excessively long list of credits including pushcart nominations in your bio vs. the guy who goes 20 minutes over the suggested reading time

[Matchup #3 in Tournament of Bookshit]

Guy who goes 20 minutes over the suggested reading time gives zero shits about the undergrads who are there for extra credit and texting so hard out of boredom that their fingers are bleeding. Like a stalker he is patient, in front of you when you don’t want him to be, and prone to define the two of you spending ‘quality time’ together as him reading while you sneak airplane bottles of Absolut from your purse—at first surreptitiously, but soon you’re throwing them back with grand, hyperbolic gestures; you’re punctuating his sentences by tilting back your head to the point of detachment to contort your throat into the shape of a more-perfect funnel, because his giving-zero-shits-ness is contagious. The booze is creeping up and you begin to enact a series of escapist hallucinations: locusts start pouring in through the ventilation and people scream and overturn their seats running for the door, but not this guy—he’s still reading, like a violin player serenading the fleeing passengers of the sinking Titanic. His words won’t stop coming and they’re painful, so you try to inflict a greater pain upon yourself to make your ears stop stinging. You think back and rip the Band-Aid off the worst psychological wound you have. You’re weeping because your mother doesn’t love you and the guy happens to look up and see your emotional tears; he is sure you are crying because his fiction is so moving and he decides to tack on an additional few pages and go 25 minutes over instead of 20. He has rendered you drunk, fragile, and wrought with uncontrollable tears.

Guy who puts an excessively long list of credits including pushcart nominations in his bio is there with you in the crowd, but he’s not intoxicated or distraught. He’s looking at the reader’s bio and counting the number of words it contains. His bios, too, will contain that number of words. He will be sure of it. He will be enough and measure up. Both he and Guy going 20 minutes over the suggested reading time are making the classic Hoarders mistake that quantity can aggregate into quality, that enough Hardees wrappers and desiccated cat corpses and stacks of 1985–1988 Newsweek magazines will be equivalent to a fine china dining set if they can just collect enough wrappers, cats, and magazines, but it is not true. Twelve publications in Dubious Tri-Weekly Literary Online Magazine hosted by Geocities will never copulate and spawn an article in Harper’s. No matter how long he reads for, no matter how long his bio is, these guys will still be lackluster writers. But only one of them has made me cry.

Alissa Nutting

* * *

WINNER: Guy who goes 20 minutes over the suggested reading time

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  1. barry

      how do you get back to your bracket again? i logged in but i cant figure out how it pops up…

  2. Mason Johnson

      Fuck that guy so hard.

      In the bad kinda way.

  3. deadgod

      former being easy to ignore (or miss) + latter being easy to heckle = easy, but fair, call

  4. Trey

      is this the appropriate place to begin bragging that my bracket is dead on so far? also, if I do brag, is it likely the next matchup will shit all over my winning streak?

  5. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      This last sentence is brilliance.

  6. Trey

      little did I know that I am in fact an idiot and misremembered one of my picks. going to stop commenting now

  7. Leapsloth14

      Really like this. Can’t tell you the airplane bottles I’ve resorted to during readings. I feel less like a freak now. Years ago in Alabama this visiting writer read for hours during what was supposed to be a polite 30-40 minutes. She had us all TRAPPED. It was such a distasteful power play. Suffocating, really.

      I also the hoarder’s analogy. More embarrassing than reading these long-ass lists of publications (mostly in rags, as you’ve alluded to) is seeing/hearing them announced aloud. It is squirm-worthy.

      I also think one level of writing growth is to really pare down that bio.

  8. Brian Oliu

      Man, did I luck out in that Alissa judged this round.  UA Bankhead Reading Series commiseration for the win. (s/o to Sean)

  9. Joseph

      This is lovely. My only question is why can’t you interrupt the guy going 20 minutes over? What’s the point of having limits if they aren’t enforced at some point?

  10. Laura van den Berg

      There is a special place in hell for people who go way over their reading time. Can’t stand it.

  11. GusGuest

      I don’t think I understand what constitutes “winning”.

  12. Penina Roth

      Speaking as a curator — we don’t want to embarrass anyone (we just hope they’ll notice us checking the time on our cell phones, squirming in our seats and rolling our eyes). In my experience, it’s usually novice writers who go way over time, while most (unfortunately not all) “high profile authors” are conscientious about limits.

  13. Courtney Maum