Bark: the most f***ing epic literary event, of all time

Posted by on Sep 8, 2016 in Blog | No Comments

This post was originally published at Bark on September 8, 2011



quaxelrod: the greatest duck in the history of twitter

i don’t know what you were doing on tuesday night, but there is approximately a negative 97% chance that it was awesomer than what i was doing.  and i went to a nearly three hour reading event at a well-worn shack in a dirty industrial corridor—this hovel literally being painted by it’s owner as we walked in, and situated right in front of the city of chicago’s fleet management department.  that dive bar was where the main attraction was: 200+ pages of printed tweets.  what, you think watching sons of anarchy was better?  watch as i make you eat those words, disbeliever.

the best thing you could have done last tuesday, in any possible universe, was attend “the @mayoremanuel’s book event!” organized by dan sinker.  this is because another way to describe the evening would go like this: i got an autographed copy of a hilarious book by the fake mayor of chicago while the actual mayor of chicago called the author a fucker in front of my face, after which jeff tweedy played some black-eyed peas songs, but not before a group of obscenely talented young poets made my heart simultaneously swell with pride and tough love for my city, and the writer we were all there to see urged his fellow chicagoans to once again (in the tradition of daniel burnham) be “a town of fucking nut kickers.

allow me to elaborate…

for a measly $5, attendees got a terrific lineup of impassioned readers and performers in the cozy confines of my beloved hideout while a worthy charity (young chicago authors) benefited from the proceeds.  at the heart of this literary gathering was the release of the f***ing epic twitter quest of @mayoremanuel—sinker’s about-to-be released book collecting the profanity-laden tweets he wrote (in the satirical persona of a fake rahm emanuel) during chicago’s mayoral race earlier this year.  it was the best/most poignant/surreal reading i’ve ever been to.

photo courtesy of cook county commissioner @johnfritchey

it started around 6pm, with early arrivers waiting in line to purchase sinker’s book (which isn’t officially released until next week), or one of the pretty screenprinted posters, buttons, or t-shirts for the event, then have sinker sign said goods while you signed his own copy of the book.  i was about 3rd in line when the real rahm emanuel made an unscheduled appearance, announcing himself with a big smile and a “what’s up, fucker?” to a very surprised sinker.   the author was then kind enough to share with the rest of us the fact that rahm, too, signed his book: “you’re an asshole. mayor emanuel.“ this moment alone would’ve made the night an odd/unforgettable one, but it really hadn’t even begun.

we entered the performance area greeted by the city’s chief technology officer, john tolva, spinning an excellent dj set.  first and third on the proper bill, respectively, were a couple of very good chicago writers whose work was new to me: dmitry samarov and megan stielstra.  samarov, a working chicago cabbie, regaled us with true & touching tales from his day job, while stielstra read a terrific story about a young girl learning to hunt animals with the family men.  i will most likely be proceeding to quimby’s in the very near future to pick up their books, hack: stories from a chicago cab and everyone remain calm.

whether or not the performers from the night’s second act were the biggest/best surprise is perhaps a matter of debate.  but there is no arguing that the young slam poets from louder than a bomb were simply amazing.  LTAB (a program of the evening’s beneficiary, young chicago authors), is the biggest teen poetry festival in the world, and it’s director gives a fine description of it here.  recently there was an award-winning documentary made about LTAB, and you can hear audio of some of its extraordinary participants on WBEZ’s website.  but if i just told you to check out a bunch of those teenage slam poets, that would be a disservice to them, and to you.  across the board on tuesday night, to a persondominique james, kush thompson, malcolm london, sam carroll, melana bass, myara robinson, and robert brown all embodied an astounding combination of pure hearts, clear-eyed description of their surroundings, insight beyond their years, and remarkable spoken word skill.  if you take nothing else from this post, i beg of you to at least watch all four of their performances from the event.  they may well be the best videos you see all day.  and that’s saying something, because i will shortly link you to jeff tweedy doing a dramatic reading of “my humps.”

in real life, the wilco founder & frontman played at a fundraiser during rahm’s run for mayor.  at that same time, sinker’s fictional version of emanuel (who frequently mirrored the real candidate, but with an extra layer of absurdity) asked tweedy to play black-eyed peas songs in one of the more hilarious appearances of chicago celebrities during the whole twitter-based farce.  for this event on tuesday, sinker somehow managed to convince tweedy to actually play those songs (“i gotta feeling” and “rock your body”).  which the singer did, to great effect.  timeout chicago & some fans captured it all in unexpectedly good footage.

the crowning moment was sinker himself reading from his book (wired has an excerpt from the annotated book, whose context is helpful for those unfamiliar with chicago and/or the recent mayoral race, and has an archive of every tweet, including @ replies left out of the book for legal reasons).  the chicago tribune has offered a better review of the book than i could ever craft, but i will speak to the presentation we witnessed.  sinker’s spirited reading gave proof that he’d created something remarkable.  his characters transcended quirkiness and the presumed limitations of 140 character lines.  his story embraced the pathos of a city without pandering to it.  his humor buoyed us and mocked us and knocked us out with terrible kisses.  it was dream-like, quick-witted, and committed to pointing out the whole wretched/fantastic truth of ourselves.  no joke, it’s that good.

but if you missed all of this (and odds are you did), fret not: you can still be part of the fun at an MCA event next week—a september 13th conversation with sinker and chicago news icon carol marin.  i’m telling you, for god’s sake, man: do it.  or, at the very least, pull all the money out of your pockets, use it to buy a copy of sinker’s book, and then give all the rest to young chicago authors.  it’s guaranteed to make your thursday suddenly epic.

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