To get this out of the way right off before brass tacks are scattered, the event was a boffo, smash, gang's aweigh success. Despite a stressful week for its incredibly hard-working organizers, an unenviable afternoon start time and questionable participation on the part of the Turf, the show went off like a house full of chainsmokers on oxygen. I was working the door, so I know how many people showed: a lot, is how many. It was held downstairs, in what is delightfully referred to as the Clown Room, and by the time the first reader finished up, it was SRO and I was having to steer people into the cramped corners just to get them in the door. It was also a really receptive crowd who cheered when they needed to cheer, laughed when they were supposed to laugh, and generally gave it up for the literary superstars on display. Shauna -- who, honestly, crew, I liked like crazy long before she was my gal, long before I even met her, because she's determined and talented and smart and funny as hell -- did a fantastic job not just organizationally but ceremonially, reading the bios and introducing the talent in a rock-steady voice that was real as the day is long. She also read a piece she wrote for McSweeney's that happens to be a favorite of mine in between acts; you can find it here, and feel the massive loss in your life that you didn't get to hear the best girl there is read it live. She did just an amazing job, and I think she's swell.
Okay, the readers. First up was Alex Lemon, who read some outstanding poems (you can see more of them here). Yr fateful correspondent was next, and as usual, completely miscalculated what a room full of drunks would find funny. Next up was the evening's genu-wine Big Shot, Mr. Charles Baxter, who justified his rep by reading an excellent and truly funny short story exerpt (you can learn about his many books here). The gregarious and graceful Jason DeBoer, whose stuff can be found all over the internet, was next, reading an excerpt from his sullen-Minnesota-teens novel in progress. The lovely and talented Claire Zulkey, who I am proud to call pal and whose book you can buy here, followed with a charming piece about how George Bush doesn't like-like black people. And Jim Ruland, a fine writer who is also father to the world's cutest kid (and whose first book you can buy here), closed it out with a story calamityjon should read about Popeye.
It was the Good Time Had By All. And you wish you were there.