You are what you read from
Your novel in commercial form, taken from the stack of books being sold at your reading. A certain lovely casual or incidental pretension to this. It’s like you walk into a bookstore with the most reasonable faith that your duly inventoried novel, of course, is replicated ~8-12 times in a stack (its “head” brandished vertically by either its own weight or a plastic contraption), on a table next to the mic’d podium, on which aristocratic miscellany (e.g. bouquet of flowers, a doily, English biscuits, a glass of water) rest. This is your reading, and the only preparation required is the lifetime of authorial sensibility whose matured peak may be found in the imminent vocal/verbal/mental evocations soon spoken from your mouth. The type of person who walks into their reading empty handed has faith in both commerce and the self-regenerating muse of whatever’s on his mind.
Your seemingly incidental smartphone. You are most likely still in college or just graduated. You communicate to the crowd “new media,” that unearned and premature skepticism towards tired print. You share the same smug “mellowness” of our recent author, simply finding some online content (gchats, emails, texts, your blog) to read from — as if you made such an ad hoc decision during your ornate introduction, when in fact you had decided days, maybe a week, before the reading to read from your smartphone as affected gesture of commonplace epiphany. The solipsist emphatic slouch of someone gazing into their smartphone is lost upon you, seeing that you cannot see yourself outside of yourself, as someone who looks like that. A bug.
Your personal, personable, personified laptop. Your Macbook is a kind of Bible, cacophonous voices of an invented God — each tab; each ping; each application, its alertful bounce hemorrhaging on the dock — vying for attention. One imagines women crying across the country over Skype, men wanking way past midnight at some. sick. shit: the glazed interface of loneliness sustained by this plastic death book, a book we loyally read whose pages we cannot flip, as there is no end. And yet, you balance it on your lower left arm as if the “lap” in laptop lacked implicit instruction on where to put the fucking thing. You stand there — thumbnail poster child, instagram filtered avatar, animated gif that causes motion sickness — and read some .doc in your documents folder, the screen’s blue insentient stare mistaken for countenance, on your smitten face.
An untitled printed-out manuscript of current unpublished work. An ominous 7-9 pages, paper-clipped or not, barely folded into a swollen edge that you self-consciously carry into the reading. The Costco goldfish crackers and cheap Merlot are not enough to keep the pre-reading circle around you from asking “is that what you’re reading,” as if such redundancy could somehow mitigate the self-perceived yet loathed at seriousness of this venture. Double spaced and 12 pt., the obsequious formatting can be somewhat calming to the eyes, as if the acceptance from an editor meant anything other than the arbitrary collusion of taste. The “workshop draft feel” of this bundle of papers evokes new/current material being read for the first time, the audience witness to something greater, succumbing to an obsession marked by “are you still working on that thing,” sympathetically asked 2-3 months later at another reading, this time you — with a new cyst, somewhere — in the audience, wishing death upon the reader.
An under-read respected journal in which you were published. Your great 6,000 word story that was finally published in print (pgs. 22-29, Issue No 17, Vol. IV) by a respected journal which nobody read. Well, god damn it, these people are going to sit through this. Where there is lack of readership, there is also being stuck in a plastic folding-chair in a literary city somewhere between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m., that genius fuck-up-dinner-plans mound of time. Short of the fire alarm going off, these 15-17 people will come to understand exactly that horrible yet retrospectively sacred thing that happened in your childhood, through the haze of lightheadedness and needing to pee.
Your chapbook. A long time ago someone cared about you, and stapled it. You think the edition of 40 means that “there are only 40 of these in the world,” a refrain which drives your integrity into the mud, the world of zero distribution and sales, oh unsung poet of the century. You worry if the toner they used is archival, you blasted muck.