Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Toronto -- the boat, lovely red lighting, JT LeRoy, camaraderie, restaurant oil, what helps and what hurts, what hurts and what helps

Jess and I arrive early at The Boat where the event is taking place -- it's this cavernous Chinatown bar in warm cabaret tones of red and brown, red lights too and it's upstairs with two heavy doors which is exciting because maybe that will block out the smoke from downstairs. No one else is there yet, not even the organizers and the bar owner is asking us questions we don't exactly know how to answer but eventually everyone else arrives, including the crowd, which ends up filling most of the space and then Sandra Alland starts off with a hilarious found poem that I read in make/shift And then Stacey May Fowles reads from her new book, Fear of Fighting, which is hilarious and filled with anxiety and high-fashion satire. Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is next, and her piece is an insomniac treasure that even references the last time I was in Toronto, and Jess organized a dinner party at her house, and how does Tara-Michelle describe it? I wish I could remember her great description about how we were talking about gender and abuse and activism and intimacy and sex work and how her boyfriend at the time said he just felt like he wasn't included, or something like that – it’s scathing and delicious. Then Sandra reads from a piece the Scottish Arts Council decided wasn't a story, I want to know what they thought it was -- dialog boxes framing the tensions between conversation and identity, that's what I'm going to say -- certainly a story, as far as I'm concerned!

I wanted a podium so that I wouldn't have to hold the book and hurt myself, they do have a music stand but that doesn't really help, but what's more awkward is trying to read in the dim-lit space, glamorous lighting for sure but not so great for seeing words. People are quiet and loud too, it's a good mix and there’s one point when someone really starts hollering and I love that but somehow I can't remember exactly where it happens. There's lots of great applause, yay for applause and then it's quiet at first for questions but Charlie, the proprietor of This Ain't the Rosedale Library, asks what I think about JT LeRoy, well that's a big question! Then from Dan, his former business partner who kind of seems like still his business partner tonight, asks about whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, and what makes the difference -- that one's fun. A question about why I don't feel hopeful about my own sexuality, and there are several more but I can't remember exactly – what’s interesting is the way the Q&A is almost like a separate talk, probably because I talk so much and I like the different forms of engagement.

Then lots of great questions and comments during the signing part about writing and staying present and a fun conversation about sex work, one person says that each of my anthologies have arrived at exactly the time when ze was thinking about the same issues in similar ways, and that's exciting! Toronto is one of my favorite places to read, people really seem drawn to my work in exciting ways and I appreciate the camaraderie.

Afterwards, Tara-Michelle has figured out a great place to eat but unfortunately they’re closed so we end up at a Chinese restaurant where I'm too worried about the oil that will ruin my digestion to get anything but steamed vegetables and then they bring me vegetables coated in oil but luckily it's a fun conversation anyway with writers and filmmakers and booksellers, some of whom I've just met and some whom I've met at different points in my personal, literary, and cultural trajectory, which sounds kind of hilarious and formal so I'm not sure why I'm framing it that way but the point is that even though I'm exhausted and drained afterwards, wondering whether all of this is worth it, deciding that it can't be worth it because I'm so exhausted and drained but then somehow it is worth it because of the excitement and engagement and I don't know how to balance what is what, to figure out what helps and what hurts except to keep trying.

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