Monday, May 18, 2009

Pilcrow Lit Fest: Reading Under the Influence

Tonight's Pilcrow event was Reading Under The Influence. I was particularly excited to see how this one would go because I had heard only good things about RUI from one of its curators, Amy Guth.

I'm happy to report that this event was awesome on several levels. The first, and most important, of which was getting to spend some further quality time (see also: drink beer) with Amy, Leah Jones, June Blazek, Tiffany Tate (a local filmmaker) and Edgar Garcia. Edgar, who brought to the event a rad bobblehead of himself and his card (yes I have one too) proclaiming him one fo the first 1000 fans of Chicago band I Fight Dragons, is himself somewhat legendary for being the subject of the "Edgar-ing" prank phenomenon seen here.


(See more photos at Pilcrow's Flickr pool)

Another level of awesomeness was the venue itself. Sheffield's bar on School and Sheffield in Wrigleyville/Lincoln Park was listed this month as one of the top 100 bars in America by Esquire magazine in 2009. The event had its own separate back room bar from which Leah and I ordered tall 22oz bottles of some terrific IPA called "Decadent Imperial" by SKA Brewing in Durango, CO.

Reading Under the Influence, in case you've never been, is a public reading event where local Chicago authors slam a shot of their choice and then read from their published and unpublished works. Most readings were the authors' own work and most were directly from published books, but these didn't seem like hard and fast rules. Immediately following the readings, the authors would then ask the audience literary (or not) questions which the audience would then howl back the answers to. When three or four finalists had been selected by virtue of answering quickest (or loudest), there would be a tie-breaker question which only they were allowed to shout the answers to (or not-one person randomly broke this rule to which one of the speakers roared "YOU SUCK COCK IN HELL!"). The person who won this round was rewarded with a book and a free shot.

The rules were clearly well-established, and the format familiar, which did help, given that the event went on for about three hours and the readers who read two or three stories were often several shots into the night by the time they took the mic. The only truly concrete rule of the entire experience that I could discern was that even though the readers/winners got a shot of their choice, you are clearly supposed to choose Jameson's. I saw no one deviate whatsoever from this rule except Amy Guth, who had a Jameson's-and-Ginger. I considered asking for a Patron just to be a smartass if I won, but I'd probably have gotten my ass kicked by a bunch of hammered local Chicago writers.

The excitement didn't stop there.

The stories themselves were great, most notable for me was a story about a young dad trying to get his adolescent daughter to listen to punk music, one about driving around the neighborhood pimp-like in an Ice Cream truck, a hilariously descriptive story about the way women smell, and a "very wrong" story by Amy Guth about how she wanted to fall in love with a man with no legs.

Anyway, a good time was had by all and for good reason Reading Under the Influence (which meets the first wednesday of every month at Sheffield's) was voted the best reading series in the city by the Chicago Reader.

Up next: Wednesday night is Local Author night at The Book Cellar.

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