New York Observer dumps on readings

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Doug Pardee
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New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Doug Pardee » July 6th, 2011, 11:50 am

http://www.observer.com/2011/07/no-one- ... r-reading/
Is it a coincidence that this is how parents get their children to go to sleep? It is a dark fate, indeed, the reading that drags on and on, where the only person who has lost interest more than the audience is the author...
[From] Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street... “We’re increasingly moving away from the reading model.... We have authors in conversation, Q&A sessions. I’ve been saying this since I opened the store: the traditional reading format is broken."
Mark Krotov, an assistant editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux who co-organizes the publisher’s reading series at Russian Samovar with fellow editor Chantal Clarke, says they stopped bringing the readers’ books to the event because no one was buying them.

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Holly
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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Holly » July 6th, 2011, 3:08 pm

That's a shame. Readings by who about what? Are the books dull? Authors dumpy and unable to articulate? I just went to a reading by a friend at the local college and people bought her book.

Edited to add my second thought. Or is this a sign of our TV culture?

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by hektorkarl » July 7th, 2011, 12:30 pm

I have to admit that I enjoy the Q&A sessions and conversations more than the readings. I think it's because I like to set my own pace when reading.

I do like to hear a brief excerpt to see the author's take on the material, though.

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Doug Pardee » July 7th, 2011, 2:23 pm

Over at Publishers Weekly, Gabe Habash piles on:
The written word (poetry can be an exception, but too many poets fall into the same auto-deliver as their prose peers) is meant to be read. Not heard.
And:
Best case scenario, a reading involves listening to a friend read for about fifteen minutes and, depending on how, you know, good this friend is, it’s not so bad. Not that it really matters, because you’re going to fall all over yourself telling your reader friend how incredible he/she was. And, really, the point isn’t how good he/she was, but that you’ve shown your support. Despite all the problems with readings, they do foster friendships, essentially doubling as ceremonial cheer sessions....

But here’s something–because people will never stop pretending they are happy to be at readings, perhaps we should take the only really good thing about readings–supporting one’s friends–and adapt that idea. Perhaps it should become socially acceptable for friends to go out together and cheer for each other and their pursuits, for no particular reason. That would be way more fun, anyway.

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Rachel Ventura » October 14th, 2011, 1:30 am

I confess, I've never actually been to a live author's reading, but I used to have some of these books-on-tape that were "read by the author." Mostly kids' books, but FWIW these were really good. Of course, there's been time for retakes, and the production folks use audio equipment that edits out the coughs, flub-ups and burps every now and then. Still, I like hearing what the author's voice sounds like. Maybe I'm a victim of the TV culture/overstimulated generation, or maybe it's just that bringing in more than one of the senses really makes the story come alive. :)

Maybe Holly is right, that the author him/herself isn't making it all that interesting and people are falling asleep. Or drones on and on with dull prose like Ted Striker in Airplane, unaware that s/he really has slain the audience (because they've all suicided out of frustration). ;) Reminds me of another one by the same filmmakers, one of the Naked Gun movies where some scientific researcher Drebin was hired to protect livened up the audience (who were having quite a snoozefest because his research was so boooooring) by reading a steamy romance novel. Boy did their ears perk up (and for the males in the audience, that probably wasn't the only thing)! :lol:

I may be confusing readings with big-name conferences, but wasn't it at one of these types of things that J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay? (And Stephen King generated controversy saying Rowling was much better than Stephenie Meyer, and basically that Twilight did "suck"?)

As introverted as I am, I think I'd actually prefer giving a reading to the OTHER format of social networking being forced on us writers. In the same vein, YouTube doesn't compare to live theater, nor does iTunes or Last.fm to the Warped Tour or OzzFest. :mrgreen: And I'd much prefer attending one, listening to (literally) the author's "voice," and maybe getting an A for a Q from him/her, to all this impersonal bleh on Twitter and their websites.

Semi-OT: Probably one of the only exceptions to the rule about a droning dialogue not being entertaining is comedian Steven Wright. He's...got...this monotone voice...but the point is...he makes the mundane...so hilarious...even though he sounds like...he's on...Quaaludes. :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Ryan » October 15th, 2011, 12:04 pm

Readings are sort of brutal for me, an undiagnosed self-proclaimed ADD guy. I have to be twiddling with something in order to "listen". Good that I can multitask and comprehend at the same time but not so good when trying to discuss something serious with your wife.

I like it when the author tries to read over music or spice it up somehow. Regardless of how boring it may be, it feels damn good to look out and see a small crowd there for you.

One of these days when I get around to organizing some events I thought about digging out some deleted scenes from the book or reading short pieces of really early edits to show how bad some things start off. This way the audience may be more intrigued by me showing the process. Tossing a little video and music in can't hurt either.

Maybe a thread on how to spice up readings would be good.
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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Quill » October 15th, 2011, 3:17 pm

How would a reading be any different from listening or delivering an audio book. And audio books rock. The only diff would be if the author is not practiced in reading aloud. Go practice! Indeed few audio books are read by the author. Rather they are usually read by experienced actors.

Reading one's poetry at local open mics and slams is good practice. Speaking in front of a local writers group, or any other group, on any subject, is good practice. Developing one's confidence and chalking up live reading/speaking experience are indispensable for keeping people riveted.

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Mira » October 16th, 2011, 2:58 pm

Sheesh.

First of all, parents read children to sleep not because it's boring, but because it's comforting.

I don't understand why people need to be so mean about stuff. If they don't like it, live and let live. Why be so hyper-critical? If readings are boring, then no one will come and the problem will solve itself. I really dislike when the media creates an issue just to be contrary and stir up feelings.

All of that said, I do think there's an art form which needs more attention - and that is elocution. In the past, being able to read or speak a piece out loud in a moving and poweful way was considered a great gift. With movies, T.V., etc., that art form is in danger of being dismissed as not important. In addition, people aren't remembering that elocution is a skill that needs training. So authors just stand up and read their books, and they may not be well-trained in elocution skills.

For authors who are going on curcuit, that might be something to think about.

That's especially true since people's attention style has sped up over the decades. A slow thoughtful entertainment form, like eloqution, will need to adapt to the faster attention style of today's audience.

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Quill » October 16th, 2011, 4:41 pm

Mira wrote: All of that said, I do think there's an art form which needs more attention - and that is elocution. In the past, being able to read or speak a piece out loud in a moving and poweful way was considered a great gift. With movies, T.V., etc., that art form is in danger of being dismissed as not important. In addition, people aren't remembering that elocution is a skill that needs training. So authors just stand up and read their books, and they may not be well-trained in elocution skills.

For authors who are going on curcuit, that might be something to think about.

That's especially true since people's attention style has sped up over the decades. A slow thoughtful entertainment form, like eloqution, will need to adapt to the faster attention style of today's audience.
You're right, Mira. In today's attention deficit disorder society, authors may need to focus on one and two syllable words, more physical action, and practice reading aloud in a quick, clipped manner. Speed reading.

If that doesn't work, I suggest electrocution, rather than elocution. The listeners could be wired for a mild shock -- nothing dangerous, mind you! -- applied if they fall asleep during the reading. Perhaps when their eyes begin to droop. Make for a lively gathering!

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Mira » October 17th, 2011, 4:45 pm

Well, what about a reward system, Quill? If readers pay attention, they get a tootsie roll.

Sadly, I'm one of those readers with a short attention span, so I'd probably be tootsie rollless, myself. Pretty sad when you can't get a tootsie roll. Although I don't really like tootsie rolls, so it probably works out okay.

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Rachel Ventura » October 27th, 2011, 2:28 am

Mira wrote:Sheesh.

First of all, parents read children to sleep not because it's boring, but because it's comforting.
They just don't read Go the Fsck to Sleep. :lol:
Mira wrote:I don't understand why people need to be so mean about stuff. If they don't like it, live and let live. Why be so hyper-critical? If readings are boring, then no one will come and the problem will solve itself. I really dislike when the media creates an issue just to be contrary and stir up feelings.

All of that said, I do think there's an art form which needs more attention - and that is elocution. In the past, being able to read or speak a piece out loud in a moving and poweful way was considered a great gift. With movies, T.V., etc., that art form is in danger of being dismissed as not important. In addition, people aren't remembering that elocution is a skill that needs training. So authors just stand up and read their books, and they may not be well-trained in elocution skills.

For authors who are going on curcuit, that might be something to think about.

That's especially true since people's attention style has sped up over the decades. A slow thoughtful entertainment form, like eloqution, will need to adapt to the faster attention style of today's audience.
I have an idea, though. Take a couple of classes/seminars in theater, and/or go to see live plays. Without the speakers, boom operators, gaffers (what's a gaffer?), etc., the austerity of the stage requires the actor to project his/her voice so the whole crowd can hear. Even though nowadays they usually wear clip microphones attached, they still can't mumble, drone, or whisper, else they sound like they're performing a scene at the BK drive-thru kiosk. "Alas, poor mfmff, I knew him, mfffff blahh zzz..." :lol:

And without the luxury of multiple takes and edits, as with movies and T.V., the actor (cast, really) needs to liven up the performance to keep the audience interested. Two actors never really perform the same role the same way; each has a different "flair," if you will. A book reading should be no different; it's not a live performance of a stage play, but the only difference is you, the author/speaker, have to improvise your own "stage directions," for lack of a better description. Personally I'd love to have seen J.K. Rowling dress up like Bellatrix at one of her conferences! It's no fun for anyone to go to a live "performance" expecting the "main act" to deliver something great, and then the whole thing turns out to be very similar to Ben Stein talking to a bunch of high school kids about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Authors aren't actors, of course, and most are more Salinger-esque than Buellerific. But I think a lot of the responsibility (as always) rests with the author to get the audience engaged and interested in his/her work. I wonder (seriously, as I've gotten an idea to research this, maybe for a how-to/self-help book someday?) if there are such things as Method Authors, who can delve into the character roles and the plot so much these things become extensions of their personality. The instructional thing revolves around I wonder if there's a way (or a preexisting study/workshop in how) to apply the actors' method (Stanislavski?) to writing and "experiencing" a work of fiction in the same way an actor does his role...?

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by CharleeVale » October 27th, 2011, 3:20 am

I'm going to go in a slightly tangential direction for a moment...
Mira wrote: All of that said, I do think there's an art form which needs more attention - and that is elocution. In the past, being able to read or speak a piece out loud in a moving and poweful way was considered a great gift. With movies, T.V., etc., that art form is in danger of being dismissed as not important. In addition, people aren't remembering that elocution is a skill that needs training.
I have to disagree with you. Theatre performance is an extremely popular college major right now. If that doesn't focus on elocution training, I don't know what does.
RachelVentura wrote: I have an idea, though. Take a couple of classes/seminars in theater, and/or go to see live plays.
This is true. Anyone who plans on spending any amount of time in the public eye should take some acting classes. NOT a speech class. Public speaking is the #1 fear in the US, even above death, and Speech classes do nothing to assuage that fear.
RachelVentura wrote: Even though nowadays they usually wear clip microphones attached, they still can't mumble, drone, or whisper, else they sound like they're performing a scene at the BK drive-thru kiosk. "Alas, poor mfmff, I knew him, mfffff blahh zzz..."
This is not true. I'm a Master's Student in a Theatre Performance program at the moment. The majority of plays you will see do not have any form of actor amplification. (Musicals are an exception because even the most powerful human voice is no match for a full orchestra) Sorry, it just bugs me when people say that.

But yes! Everyone take acting classes. I promise that when you make it big and go on book tour it will help you!

CV

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Rachel Ventura » October 28th, 2011, 11:36 pm

Rachel Ventura wrote: I have an idea, though. Take a couple of classes/seminars in theater, and/or go to see live plays.
CharleeVale wrote:This is true. Anyone who plans on spending any amount of time in the public eye should take some acting classes. NOT a speech class. Public speaking is the #1 fear in the US, even above death, and Speech classes do nothing to assuage that fear.
I think this is globally, not just the States. Anyway, I had to take a public speaking class in HS, and in other classes deliver presentations. I was fortunate enough that in the US, we have what's called a Section 504 exemption in the Americans With Disabilities Act, which allows for accommodations in occupational and educational settings based on individual limitations. (The CP kid I mentioned in another post wasn't as lucky to get "accommodations" by the basketball bullies, though.) :cry: Anyway, I was able to avoid all of these things because I have social anxiety. (I do in real life, although it's very, very mild. More like "stage fright" than anything in the DSM.)

But wouldn't you know, my English teacher (who was assigning us all a presentation project) gave a huge angry lecture to the whole class, and for the entire duration of the class (not a short-bus/remedial one, but actually AP!), because it turned out every single kid went and got a Section 504 exemption regardless of whether they had a documented anxiety disorder! Her "public speaking" performance was at the top of her lungs, and she gave us all Fs for an assignment we didn't even do! It got wiped from the report cards because she was up for a performance review and possible sanctions from the school board for discrimination and student harassment.

Luckily, though, I've never delivered a public performance of anything my whole life. I was in theater for a little while too, but not on stage -- I'd rather read and write plays than actually perform them, so I took an elective college course in History of the Modern Stage. No soliloquies, just papers. Never was I so glad to hear the words MLA Format my whole life. (Same reason I'd rather be a speech-writer than giver. Or the technical geek who manages President Obama's Teleprompter. Lord knows G.W. Bush should've taken the silver spoon out of his mouth before he put his foot in it at the Presidential podium!) :lol:
Rachel Ventura wrote:Even though nowadays they usually wear clip microphones attached, they still can't mumble, drone, or whisper, else they sound like they're performing a scene at the BK drive-thru kiosk. "Alas, poor mfmff, I knew him, mfffff blahh zzz..."
CharleeVale wrote:This is not true. I'm a Master's Student in a Theatre Performance program at the moment. The majority of plays you will see do not have any form of actor amplification. (Musicals are an exception because even the most powerful human voice is no match for a full orchestra) Sorry, it just bugs me when people say that.
Sorry too; I guess I figured that because I've mostly been to low-budget performances at community theater and church halls. Not to down anybody, but the acoustics are really not that good, and there's always noise coming in from the outside. A university program would probably have better quality voice training and better soundproofing in the school theater. I also remember the theater performances from high school where the cast was dressed in 19th-century wear (we did Jekyll & Hyde, Our Town, and a reenactment of Lincoln's final days), yet they'd have enough wires attached that it could've been Thornton Wilder Steampunk Edition. ;)
CharleeVale wrote:But yes! Everyone take acting classes. I promise that when you make it big and go on book tour it will help you!
As long as they're non-credit, of course. :oops: Someone like me should start small and aim for the karaoke stage in a town of 30. As for rehearsals, I do plenty of audio performances in the shower... :lol:

Just out of curiosity, where are you going to college, and how does one do a culminating thesis on performance -- do you have to audition for and get a role on Broadway, or get 5/5 stars from a Professor Ebert as the equivalent of an "A" grade?

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by CharleeVale » October 29th, 2011, 12:04 am

Rachel Ventura wrote:
Rachel Ventura wrote: Just out of curiosity, where are you going to college, and how does one do a culminating thesis on performance -- do you have to audition for and get a role on Broadway, or get 5/5 stars from a Professor Ebert as the equivalent of an "A" grade?
I go to a very good school. Haha. Nothing personal, I just don't generally post details like that online. I will say that it is in the top 8 performance schools in the greater New York area.

LOL! Getting a role on broadway is extremely difficult, even for seasoned performers. If you had to do that for thesis, 99.9% of people would fail and not graduate.

For my undergraduate degree, which was in Theatre as well, I had a Senior Theatre Project. For that I performed the one-woman (modified to a lead with four smaller parts) show The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. For that I co-directed, designed the set, lights, costumes, and sound. I took the photographs for, and designed the posters and programs, and of course memorized around 63 pages of almost solid monologue.

For my Graduate degree I haven't decided what my thesis will be yet. But I might write a full-length play that culminates with a staged reading. Since I'm majoring in Performance and Playwriting, and I've already done the whole 'put an entire show on yourself' thing, that makes the most sense.

Sorry for that entirely to long rant about myself! (But I do hope that answers your question, Rachel)

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Re: New York Observer dumps on readings

Post by Rachel Ventura » November 4th, 2011, 2:06 pm

CharleeVale wrote:
Rachel Ventura wrote:
Rachel Ventura wrote: Just out of curiosity, where are you going to college, and how does one do a culminating thesis on performance -- do you have to audition for and get a role on Broadway, or get 5/5 stars from a Professor Ebert as the equivalent of an "A" grade?
I go to a very good school. Haha. Nothing personal, I just don't generally post details like that online. I will say that it is in the top 8 performance schools in the greater New York area.

LOL! Getting a role on broadway is extremely difficult, even for seasoned performers. If you had to do that for thesis, 99.9% of people would fail and not graduate.

For my undergraduate degree, which was in Theatre as well, I had a Senior Theatre Project. For that I performed the one-woman (modified to a lead with four smaller parts) show The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. For that I co-directed, designed the set, lights, costumes, and sound. I took the photographs for, and designed the posters and programs, and of course memorized around 63 pages of almost solid monologue.

For my Graduate degree I haven't decided what my thesis will be yet. But I might write a full-length play that culminates with a staged reading. Since I'm majoring in Performance and Playwriting, and I've already done the whole 'put an entire show on yourself' thing, that makes the most sense.

Sorry for that entirely to long rant about myself! (But I do hope that answers your question, Rachel)

CV
Sure! That's OK that you don't want to say where you're going. AFAIK New York itself is one of the top everything when it comes to, well, everything. Wherever you are, you're in good "company." (Alvin Ailey is a company, after all. Trump Enterprises is too, but it's sure not a hairdressing school!) :lol:

Clearly you have no trouble expressing yourself by yourself. Most of us aren't as self-confident or lucky to be that way. I'm sure most writers are introverts by nature; probably a lot of them do have Salinger syndrome and would like to keep it that way. (Salinger himself couldn't stand theater folk, especially Hollywood and the movies -- this clearly shows in Holden's utter disdain for his screenwriter brother.) :|

A lot of us are naturally given to fear and self-loathing (which is why we don't give readings in Las Vegas). I would think that one has less fear and loathing of other people if there is nothing to fear but fear, not oneself. After all, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a wise old philosopher had this to say about fear, that it does lead to (self-)loathing, which leads not to Las Vegas, but to the Dark Side and to suffering. (All apologies to Master Yoda, FDR, and Hunter S. Thompson.) :lol:

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