Yes, that's right. Lex is thirty (i.e., tomorrow night is the thirtieth installment of Toronto's best and most interesting reading series). And to celebrate, the good people at Lex mission control
have put together a special evening of erotic readings by Dave Bidini, Jon Paul Fiorentino and Saghi Ghahraman. I'm a prude, but I'm going anyway. See you there.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 8pm
The Cameron House (Queen/Spadina)
In the flood of news about the Jetsgo bankruptcy you may have missed a smaller, though equally important item, one that’s relevant to everyone who cares about the literary arts: for the 7th straight year literature has lost vital ground to pornography.
The results of a joint Lexiconjury/Ipsos-Reid poll released yesterday are startling: 83% of Canadians admitted to encountering some form of pornography 2004, but only 7% said the same about literature. The 76% gap is up 3 percentage points from the same poll conducted last year, and up 22% since it was first conducted in 1998. “It’s fairly obvious that Canadian literature is losing public mindshare to pornography”, says Marlene Purdy, Senior Vice-President of Marketing Research at Ipsos-Reid and lead author of the survey. “It’s also clear that all those involved in the Canadian literary industry better make some drastic changes in its approach if it wants to stave off irrelevance and compete with the growing demand for porn.”
This disturbing trend away from literature is evident in other literary sectors as well. Just this week Television Ontario replaced its venerable book-oriented show Imprint with Zalman King’s Erotic Journeys, hosted by TVO veterans Irshad Manji and Steve Paikin. “We cancelled Imprint with regret” says Nancy Chapelle, Managing Director of TVO, “but our mandate is to expand the reach and scope of our network. We believe that intelligent travel erotica is our only prudent way forward”.
Chris Chambers, Retail Accounts Manager of the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association, is quite concerned. “We began to take notice last year when sales of poetry journals Rampike and Exile both dipped below On Our Backs, a magazine of lesbian-oriented erotica. Even the niche porn players are outpacing mainstream poetry. All I can say is that the poets better wake up.”
While other literary outlets may be taking this one lying down, The Lexiconjury Reading Series is always up for a challenge. This is why we’re inaugurating three new literary initiatives in honour of our thirtieth show, initiatives we believe will bring the minds, hearts and loins of our constituents back to fine writing. It’s with pleasure and a naughty bit of pain that we introduce...
LEXXX: YES, IT’S OUR THIRTIETH!
Tuesday, March 15, 2005, 8pm
The Cameron House (Queen/Spadina)
Dave Bidini, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Saghi Ghahraman and a short cover reading of the erotic works of Jill Hartman by your hosts Bill Kennedy and Angela Rawlings, sponsored by Jetsgo!
There will be a super-brief open michelle.
DAVE BIDINI’S LITERARY BURLESQUE REVUE
A reader takes to the stage. The men and women of the crowd whoop and clap. The reader pulls out a manuscript and waves it sensually and tantalizingly, slowly peeling off the first poem.
Yes, writers have rediscovered burlesque and are working to make the performance genre their own. Not since Ernest Hemingway’s famous 1926 reading with Josephine Baker at the Folies Bergere in Paris has interest in the art form been so strong.
It’s the literary burlesque and it’s back, thanks in no small part to Dave Bidini. “I was doing some research on the history of erotic hockey literature for my latest collection of short stories, and discovered the tradition of the literary burlesque quite by accident. It’s a little-known fact that Ted Kennedy, Tim Horton, Harry Lumley and other Toronto Maple Leafs used to go for after-game beers at John Robert Columbo’s literary burlesque show at the Bohemian Embassy in the fifties.”
Bidini finds that today’s writers are far too straightforward, and have lost the subtlety, theatricality and glamourous costuming of days past. “Audiences are tired of the full-out spoken word approach and want a little mystery and metaphor in their writing”.
Not everyone agrees. “A lot of writers, like Milton Acorn, turned to literary burlesque at a young age as a way of escaping poverty”, says Acorn biographer James Deahl. “They didn’t have much choice”. Bidini disagrees: “some people think burlesque demeans writers, but those who know their history know otherwise.”
Tawdry exercise or classic art form? Find out when Bidini brings his Literary Burlesque Revue to the Lex!
THE LEXICONJURY FORUM
Here’s a letter from John Paul Fiorentino to our latest Lexiconjury Forum. Please send your Forum letters to firstname.lastname@example.org .
I love reading the Lexiconjury Forum, but never imagined that I would have an experience worth writing to you about. I’m a poet and novelist, and there’s a reading series in my city that I’ve often attended. I’ve always been attracted to this series, especially with its large and playful audience, but I can be very shy and never thought I’d get my own chance to read. Boy was I surprised when an invitation appeared in my inbox asking me to take the stage... “and you better bring your best poems!” it said.
I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. When it finally did I was completely nervous and worried that I’d freak out and end my set prematurely. When I did get there, however, the audience was very reassuring and quickly put me at my ease. They were warm with their applause, and it was clear that they wanted me up on stage. They were more than willing to listen. In fact, they were desperate to hear my work.
“I’ve been waiting for this reading for a long time”, I began, and it was clear that they had too. I quickly moved into a few short lyrics, teasing them with my long lines and penchant for ambiguity. Their applause spurred me on, and I could feel my resolve stiffening. They were open to anything, but I knew they wanted my longer work. I was enchanted - i had never encountered an audience so strong, yet so yielding to my writing.
I could feel their anticipation, so I quickly slid into my best short story, stopping only to give them a few rousing anecdotes. The story was intense and sometimes crass, but it’s always been crowd-pleaser. The audience was selfish, taking all I could give them, and yet somehow knew all the right moments to respond. It was honestly the best audience I’d ever read to. I knew I was coming to my time, and the host subtly whispered for me to finish up. When my story reached its climax the audience knew it, and burst in thundering applause. I couldn’t help but shudder - I’ve never done a reading like that, ever.
The best thing about it is that I know I'll be back one day for an encore...
Name Withheld By Request
SAGHI GHAHRAMAN: THE ART OF EROTIC STATIONERY
Some people wonder about how to break into the world of literary erotica. Many people have a desire to write lit-porn, but are surprised when their work turns out to be eminently unarousing. “I’ve tried everything”, says one writer who prefers to remain anonymous. “My latest story had it all, 16 different metaphors for genitalia, vague images of sexual yearning, two meditations about nakedness and intimacy and a bittersweet star-crossed ending. I was so demoralized once I finished: after all that work it was COMPLETELY unsexy. It wouldn’t stir a single loin.”
Saghi Ghahraman understands. She found the same in her early work, and wondered what she was doing wrong. It turns out that her error was neither her artistry nor her technique - it was her stationery. “It’s true. Many people don’t realize that the only was to write sexy erotica is to use sexy stationery” Ghahraman insists. “It was a revelation to me.”
That’s why Ghahraman opened up The Dipping Quill, Toronto’s first ever erotic stationery store. It features a full line of pens and paper solely designed to enhance erotic impact. “The first thing is to turn off your computer” Ghahraman recommends. “No one has ever written anything sexy in Microsoft Word. It’s the first mistake that beginners make. Anais Nin never used a computer.”
Next, the would-be erotica writer should plan on investing in the right equipment. “I can get someone started for under $200”, says Ghahraman. What would a beginners erotic stationery kit look like? “You need at least three proper pens. I’d recommend the Sheaffer Prelude ($75), which is great for warming things up. You also need a good Oblique nib, preferably a pen with a deep reservoir and a quality built-in piston.” Lastly, you’ll want a good all-around pen designed for action. “This one, ‘The Single Entendre’, is my favourite.” says Ghahraman. “It’s got the perfect weight, a discreet shaft, and gets the job done.”
Ghahraman will have a number of pens on display at the Lex. She’ll also lead a short seminar on choosing the right paper. The amount of absorption is a key factor. “If your erotica is particularly hot I recommend a high-blot paper. It reduces cleanup problems afterwards.”
News and Notes
• Jetsgo, you fuckers. One of our Triple-X Lex readers, the fabulous Jill Hartman, is now the holder of a worthless Jetsgo return ticket from Calgary and had to cancel her readings. We apologize profusely, and are as disappointed as you. Jetsgo you suck.
• While we’re all apologetic, sorry about the super-late flyer. Please come anyway. Erotica, people, erotica!
• We’re just kidding about the burlesque. Please don’t take off your clothes, however sensually.
• We can’t believe we’re thirty! Yikes!