Everyone got to choose how the world would end. The choices: ice, famine, flood, fire, explosion. I went with ice. Famine just seems like it would take too long, floods are too biblical, fire is so Robert Frost. Ice is heavy and neutral. It's cold, slow, pristine. Beautiful, quiet. Deadly. Okay, I don't know why I chose ice, and it turns out ice was the wrong choice, because in no time we were all forced to make up stories about our apocalyptic scenarios, stories that maddeningly had to incorporate keywords drawn from a survey of questions about what in your life you would take with you if you could take something with you to the end of the world and who in your life you would save if you could save someone, etc., and ice didn't seem conducive to any of the scenarios. There were so many rules and contingencies that the whole game felt useless and stressful. One thing that I didn't expect from a reading called "The End of the World Can Cause Skin Irritation, Stomach or Intestinal Problems" was to be irritated, although now I suppose I see the point.

The game was supposed to make things exciting. "We are planning on ambushing the audience," said Matt Briggs, who organized the event with Gregory Hischak, before it started. I asked if the doomsday game was in response to the election, and Briggs said, "It's mainly in response to the fact that readings suck." Sure enough, Hischak, at the outset, said, "Any expectations that this will be an overtly political evening should be extinguished at this time."

Nevertheless, the crowd at Richard Hugo House was in a political mood, and the stories that we all came up with (each group had to write its own version of the apocalypse) were mainly about the evilness of conservatism and the virtues of Canada. Nothing new.

I'm all for making readings more interesting. (After the game, Briggs and Hischak gave an actual reading, though very little of it--some of which involved dryers, deer, dots, and dirges, according to my notes--stayed with me.) But the "End of the World" game was puny, hysterical, surreal, and exhausting. A week after the reelection of President Bush, I was ready to be entertained and tired of thinking and not actually in the mood to play a frivolous game. I asked Doug Nufer, a writer who's rarely met an experiment he didn't like, if he was having fun, and he admitted the game was too much work. "I don't like to do work when I go to a reading," he said.

This Thursday in the same venue (Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, 322-7030, 7:30 pm) is an event called Blue Gets Screwed: A Post-Election Wrangle, featuring Jonathan Raban, Nick Licata, Ann Powers, Maria Hong, Grant Cogswell, Josh Feit, and "Dick Cheney." Topics will include secession, "values," gay marriage, Ohio, and the Rapture.


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