Litquake: Success at “Failure”

The “Original Shorts: Failure to Commit” Litquake event, at the Lone Palm on Monday, embodied everything that I love about the San Francisco literary scene. The venue was packed, and people stood three deep all the way down the long bar. A few sat cross-legged in front of the microphone, and the rest sipped cocktails at tables covered in floor-length white cloths. A day before the full moon, the night sky clear after a day of a rain, body heat making the air ten degrees warmer than outside—the mood inside the lounge was electric.Six authors read fiction written especially for the event. Each one introduced his or her work with commentary on the theme “Failure to Commit.” The readers included Malena Watrous, who read a piece about a seventeen-year-old runaway who takes a long bus ride home after her mother attempts suicide, and Shann Ray, who read a piece about a diplomat stationed in the Middle East, haunted by a meeting with a young boy who asked him for asylum.

The writers seemed excited—excited to be participating in a twelve-year San Francisco tradition, and to share something that had been written in a fury within the past few weeks. Even for the most experienced, writing is an ongoing process through which they never stop being surprised by what pops up on the page.

Looking around the room at the people of various ages, professions, and backgrounds, I couldn’t stop wondering what everyone was doing at a reading on a Monday night. About a hundred people came out to hear fiction read aloud, not to mention the nine other readings that night in other parts of the city. With over 850 authors and 150 events, this year’s Litquake is the biggest ever.

The stories were quick and entertaining, each one funny and unusual and vivid. Tucking the hefty Litquake Festival Guide into my purse so I could go home and pick out events for the rest of the week, I left the Lone Palm with three resolutions: buy Malena Watrous’s book, keep an eye out for work by Rob Ehle, and go see Charlie Varon’s play Fwd: Life Gone Viral this fall at The Marsh.

See more about Litquake at our events page.

Last edited: November 2, 2011

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