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A Little Bit of Wellspring

February 20, 2013

As I’ve written before on this blog, one of the main ideas that indirectly led to Varispeed coming together in June 2011 was the idea that reading a book you love out loud is the best way to connect with it.  I’d seen this done by my friend Ben, reading Philip K Dick’s Valis.  He was in turn inspired by readings of Moby Dick that happen every year in Mystic, CT.  We  did this novel thing with Perfect Lives, and the exploration continues through today.  But today I’d like to write a little about reconnecting with this idea using another text, namely Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s.

I’m going to attempt to get through the whole book with friend of the ‘speed Woody Leslie this Monday, in public.  This is not the first time we’ve read this book aloud, that happened last summer at the Wendy’s restaurant on Livingston St in Downtown Brooklyn.  The idea there was the same as the first Perfect Lives attempts – see what happens when you place the words in the environment that it evokes.  Take a story too literally.  See what kind of emotional and observational resonances you find.  Reading in Wendy’s, we could more clearly see the absurdities of the narrator – how out of place his lofty musings were in a place so devoid of uniqueness, character, or traditional ideas of beauty and on the other hand how out of place his eroticizing all people and some food on the premises were.  It felt sillier but also more desperate.  It made us blush and misted my eyes.  You could see it more clearly as a call for help when a person is so out of step with his surroundings but you also felt how dead on the social observations were.

We’re not going back the Wendy’s though, we’re going to be in a free, public, indoor area – the LIRR waiting area in Atlantic Terminal.  A place for people to pass the time.  We’ll probably bring some fries and frosties.  We’re inviting a few friends.  This attempt is more about getting through the book, experiencing the trajectory of it as a public, verbal thing, as a form of storytelling.

There’s something in what Varispeed does that necessitates endurance.  It’s about looking for insights in prolonged exposure to something, about resisting the urge to flinch and change your focus.  Going against a particularly contemporary condition.  We’ve taken on projects that come to you as a monolith, something not easy to take in in a single glance.  Reading even a short book requires you to not be daunted by the number of pages remaining, something that I certainly struggle with (that’s to say my reading behavior changes a lot given my location within a physical or digital volume).  One reason both Perfect Lives and Letters to Wendy’s seem well suited to this task is that both lay out to the reader the specific location at any given point – it’s 12:45pm and we’re in the Bank, or it’s December 3rd, 1996 and we’re in a Wendy’s.  You can easily tell where in the arc (one day in PL and one year in LtW)  of the hard-to-follow story you are.  Being reminded helps take away the anxiety of getting through it, I think.  Or helps speaker and audience member alike generate a strong mental image and keep it there.

Woody and I are working on a longer-term project of original stories, told through a variety of media and approaches.  This endurance public reading, spiced up by Wenderoth’s often titillating text, is I’m hoping going to be a good mental kick in the pants and creative recentering.  Something about the reading aloud in public of a favorite book just seems like the easiest thing to do.  So I’m hoping this will be a new creative wellspring while reaffirming some of the things that have come out of artistic investments of the past two years.  If you’re around and curious, if you want to participate or listen, this all goes down Monday night, 2/25/13, from about ~8-9:30pm, on the bottom floor of Atlantic Terminal, near the 2/3/4/5 and B/Q entrances.  And if you curious about the material, this seems to be a grainy home recorded version of Joe Wenderoth reading some.


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