Argue if you must, but authors shouldn't be allowed to read their work aloud. It's uncomfortable to watch. The author is clearly too close to the material and almost always sounds vaguely pretentious or obnoxiously sincere or just, in general, wrong for the part. The writer of sleek sci-fi novels is, in person, sweaty and shaky-voiced. The poet over-inflects. It's tense and awkward for everyone.

Which is why we're trying something different. Once a month for the next three months, The Stranger is hosting a night of readings (featuring various local celebrities) at Bailey/Coy Books, home to--among other things--friendly sales staff, large art books, and homosexual pornography. (I bring up the homosexual aspect because there will be a subtle tie-in at these readings with The Stranger's new Lovelab website, soon to be bursting with boys seeking boys, though humans of every sexual stripe are certainly welcome at these proceedings.) What's different about these readings is that (1) they're themed; (2) the people reading the material are not the people who wrote the material; and (3) the reading material is (unlike the reading material at most readings) smart, short, and rewarding.

This week--tonight, in fact, if you're reading this on Thursday--the series commences with readings of works by Alice B. Toklas, Fran Lebowitz, and Andrew Holleran (gay, gay, and gay, respectively). The Stranger's very own Last Days columnist and cannabis connoisseur David Schmader, drawing from Toklas' buttery and indispensable The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, will delight and hunger the crowd with a recipe for hashish fudge. (The fudge--made with stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds, peanuts, pulverized peppercorns and cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and coriander--is, Toklas advises, "more effective if taken with large quantities of mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter, ecstatic reveries, and extensions of one's personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected.")

Next, Nate Lippens, the art critic and the city's foremost "sexy man's think symbol" (his words), will read from Fran Lebowitz's not new but somehow timeless essay "When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes...Shut Them." It is about how it's become "virtually impossible to smoke a cigarette in public without the risk of fine, imprisonment, or having to argue with someone not of my class."

Then MC Queen Lucky will read some filth by Andrew Holleran--a piss-and-drugs-filled, stylistically-flawless early chapter of Dancer from the Dance--that sounds, even today, both otherworldly and familiar. This week's event is called Drinking, Smoking, Screwing. In the coming months, the readings will include a night on political scandals and a night of science fiction being read aloud by drag queens (who are, when you think about it, more so than any sweaty author, the most qualified and appropriate people to read sci-fi aloud). (See Stranger Suggests, page 21.)

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