Close to the Page, Nearer to the Ear

1. Patrick deWitt, Evan P. Schneider, & Erin Ergenbright organized according to height. 2. Crowd organized according to lighting inside Valentine’s. I didn’t go upstairs, but crowd was there too. 3. Even if you don’t smoke, it’s nice to talk outside during the break.

At Literary Mixtape #8, co-hosts Erik Bader and Matthew Korfhage invited guests Patrick deWitt, Evan P. Schneider, and Erin Ergenbright to reveal their personal connection to the words of writers who have influenced and inspired them.

The series attracts a free-range audience, as well as readers and writers with a particular allegiance to friends, family, and favorites. Bader and Korfhage opened the night co-reading Grandmother’s House by Donald Barthelme, whom they consider the patron saint of the series, in a jazz exchange of lines anchored by the phrase, “Wanna steal a kid?”

1. Organizers Erik Bader and Matthew Korfhage organizing, while R. Bradley Maule, Portland Urban Resource, averts his eyes from my photographic attempts (he takes much better photos than me).

Schneider brought a few selections from Nicholson Baker, whose obsession with detailed observation he characterized as reminiscent of Louis C.K. and acknowledged as a theme in his own writing. Our Baker tour included excerpts from The Mezzanine, A Box of Matches, and The Anthologist. Audience attention spans of various sizes appreciated the guided meander through Nicholson’s strict observations. To say that he warmed up the crowd is an understatement.

Ergenbright shared a story about being the first person to read Barthelme to his own daughter, Kate, who was attending a girl’s camp in Colorado. She also told us we would not be hearing her read any sad animal stories, although she loves such tales. Instead, she read from The Day of the Locust and Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West. While she was clearly drawn into the words, the quality of her voice indicated an equal appreciation for the punctuation.

1. Stephen just liked the lights and stayed for the readings. 2. Arthur Bradford & Jon Raymond, Emmy-nominated and Oregon Book Award winning writer/filmmaker, have both read at Lit Mixtape and dig the scene. They are both famous. 3. deWitt’s reading could have been played by Clint Eastwood, if deWitt was unavailable and Eastwood happened to be in Portland for the night.

deWitt first discovered Robert Walser in an issue of the Chicago Review and instantly recognized him as someone who could teach a lot to teach him. Although Walser never found a readership in his lifetime, deWitt mentioned Kafka and Thomas Mann as fellow admirers. deWitt’s voice lent a crisp austerity to the writing that I wondered would be there if someone else was reading it. Walser’s story was about a date in a hot air balloon.

Bader closed the night with the usual promises about creating a website for the series and invited everyone to stay for the DJ’s who brought country records. Halfway into my second pint and deep into conversation with the man who bought it, I can’t exactly say what music was playing.

***

— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at www.writerloop.com.

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