…The reason the show is called The Special Relationship is because two of its organizers are American, while two are English. And other Trans-Atlanticness has been occurring: by posting these episode reports on Big Other, the UK-based writers that we’ve invited to perform have gotten some attention from folks back in the States.
All this time, I’ve been trying to figure out how the reverse can work with a live event. How can I expose our London-based audiences to writers and writing from the States? The US authors I like are unlikely to be touring the UK any time soon: Bill Cotter (Fever Chart), Kim Parko (Cure All) or any writer in the Two Dollar Radio stable such as Joshua Mohr (Termite Parade). I had a conversation with Aaron Burch (How to Predict the Weather), and we planned to show a YouTube video of him performing:
…but the quality, when projected, didn’t hold up.
That said, if any of you on the US end of this post have any ideas about how we can involve more US-based writers in the show, I’d love to hear them.
But, for now, onto:
The Special Relationship: Episode 3
While people settled in their seats, we started the evening by showing some music videos by NOHNO:
…a group that I discovered while cyber-stalking a writer I recently met, Simon Crump.
After that, Tom Basden once again warmed the crowd up with some of his comedy act, giving examples of books and their original titles.
I just realised how hard it is to describe why something is funny. Funny just is. By way of compensation, here’s a cartoon starring Tom B. as Jeff Goldblum:
After that, we had Matthew Robins and his band. One of the main reasons I wanted to start my own night was to give a home to people like Matthew, who is too wonderful not to be known. He sings these Dahl/Gorey-esque stories while shadow puppets illustrate the story:
…and his socked feet pump away at a harmonium.
Melissa Mann was next. In addition to being one of my favourite writers around town, she’s also the editor of Beat the Dust, an online journal with incredible taste. (I kid, I kid.) In all seriousness, Beat the Dust is probably one of the best views onto the indie-lit world in the UK. Melissa herself does these city life stories usually centred on women with quiet strength and knowing, whether it be a girl with learning difficulties getting felt up on the Tube, or (like the one she performed tonight) two women talking at a café and talking no shit from the men around them.
The film for the evening was the multi-award winning Off Season (dir. Jonathan van Tulleken, 2009, 13 min). It’s about a guy who runs into some supernatural troubles on a Canadian lake while robbing people’s holiday homes during the off-season. The Florida boy in me was already scared shitless by all that goddamn snow. Christ, do people actually live in places like that?
While the film played, I thought with sadistic pleasure that a few people who bought tickets for a lighthearted night of comedy and stories might not be prepared for what the guy finds in an abandoned fridge.
After the film, each of the Special Relationship team, Sam, Tom, and I read stories. We all went dark this time; it must be the English winter coming. We had stories about a new father with restraining orders, a man destroying an innocent girl’s artwork on a train and a family retrieving corpses from a river.
The final act of the evening was Tim Key, a comedian who often performs with Tom Basden. Tonight saw him working with actress and comedian Isy Suttie to present a story about love on the tube. Tim is also a poet, and his dual roles were evident in the succinct, perfect phrasing he wrapped around his deadpan humor.
It has been humbling to work with polymaths such as these, who have one and all strengthened my belief that writers need to expand their repertoires. In this day and age, you can’t call yourself a mathematician if you know only calculus. Maybe in the 19th Century, it was sufficient to pump out a few good short stories and call yourself a writer, but the art has progressed. Look at the number of excellent short stories being pumped out daily thanks to the MFA-industrial complex. If you want to be considered an artist, you have to go beyond the state of the art. I personally believe that means understanding the story as a live experience and relearning the art of storytelling, but I wouldn’t be involved with something like the Special Relationship if I didn’t.
What do the Big Otherers think?
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with our courtroom illustrator Freeda Sangra’s impressions of the evening:
Coming up next: For November’s show, we have a story-teller, Guy Morgan, a journalist, Sam Knight, and a very special treat, the playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz.