The world of alternative literature.
On a Saturday last October, a couple hundred people poured into San Francisco’s Amnesia bar to hear a handful of writers, including a couple of punk-band founders and a first-time novelist, share personal tales on music, revolution, and living like a rock star. Amnesia was just one of more than 40 clubs, bookstores, boutiques, art galleries, and alleyways in a seven-block radius hosting free hour-long readings at staggered times from six to 9:30 p.m. With a map and some good walking shoes, fans of everything from food writing to feminine lit found events that both matched and broadened their bookish ideals.
Welcome to San Francisco’s annual LIT CRAWL -- not your everyday literary event, but perhaps it should be. Over the last few years, storytellers and audiences have begun slurping cocktails, spilling secrets, and showing that spoken words needn’t be stiff and sedentary. “A successful reading is one that brings together a lot of different communities,” says local writer and personality Charlie Anders. “[Homogenization] is a recipe for stagnation.”
Since 2004, Lit Crawl -- part of the city’s annual weeklong LITQUAKE festival -- has paired best-selling authors like Po Bronson with journalists, poets, and travel and sci-fi writers to expand and bridge genre gaps. It’s now a stalwart in the city’s literary scene, though only a fragment of San Francisco’s selection. Additional (and more frequent) offerings include the REBEL READING SERIES, which groups celebrated local authors with unknown talent to spill tales of debauchery and intrigue; PORCHLIGHT, for which politicians, social workers, systems analysts, and more spout 10-minute stories around a given theme; and Opium magazine’s raucous LITERARY DEATH MATCH, which pits authors against one another in cutthroat reading matches rivaling reality shows, complete with fan favorites, callous judges, and the occasional punch or two.
For literary events near you, check out the following.
Moles Not Molar Reading & Performance Series, Philadelphia
Writers testing experimental works share the stage with filmmakers, performance artists, and musicians at ever-changing venues. www.molesnotmolar.com
The Moth StorySLAMs, Los Angeles and New York City
Ordinary people participate in a storytelling faceoff before audience-member judges; winners move on to a GrandSLAM show. www.themoth.org RUI: Reading Under the Influence, Chicago Published authors down shots before reading original works, and a pub quiz follows. www.readingundertheinfluence.com
Post-it Note Reading Series, Brooklyn
It’s a sporadically held event where writers recite short tales while Post-it Note illustrations are drawn and projected behind them. www.postitnotestories.com
Stoop Storytelling Series, Baltimore
Themed, scriptless tales of heartbreak, unemployment, making it big, and more are told in seven minutes by seven predetermined storytellers. www.stoopstorytelling.com
SAN FRANCISCO LITERARY EVENTS: LITQUAKE (October 9–17), www.litquake.org | REBEL READING SERIES www.myspace.com/rebelreadingseries PORCHLIGHT: A STORYTELLING SERIES www.porchlightsf.com | LITERARY DEATH MATCH (also in additional cities worldwide), www.literarydeathmatch.com