All year I’ve seen literary readings – prose and poetry – popping up on events calendars but it has taken me 10-and-a-half months to go to one. And this was definitely a great pick as my friend Jim was reading some of his work – and it was cracking.
I headed to No. 8, a gorgeous, sweeping bar in Chelsea where staff were handing out delicious grapefruit cocktails made with Stoli vodka. I was happy to neck a couple, which was only appropriate seeing as the theme of the evening was ‘Addiction’.
Four writers – Elizabeth Wurtzel (who wrote Prozac Nation), Tony O’Neill and Jim Freed – read from their published pieces or works-in-progress. While there was great variety, they all shared a common thread: Their descriptions were so beautifully graphic that the addictions seemed so ugly.
I particularly loved (well, hated) how vivid and forceful O’Neill’s descriptions of his drug use were. There was something like early Jeffrey Eugenides or Michel Faber about the grimy, human sentences, which were scummy and made me turn up my nose. I also loved the pacing – these heavy sentences that gave this perfect image of how he dragged himself on each day, pounding pavements and always pushing for more.
Without sounding very biased, Jim’s was the real winner. I was surprised when I saw his sheet was covered with full prose paragraphs because it had sounded like poetry when he read it. When I was watching him, the pacing, repetition and emphasis of his words reminded me of Ginsberg. He led us through this vivid scene of meeting writer Henry Miller and crafting a beautiful poem – before realizing he had a girlfriend at home who might care where he was. So he headed back and in his frantic haze to explain the night’s evening to her, things spiraled out of control.
This is not the sort of scene I’m usually in, but it was brilliant – and I loved getting swept up in the material. Good job, Jim!