Let's say you're reading something you love. (Say you're reading Netherland by Joseph O'Neill—highly recommended. Or the anniversary issue of The New Yorker. Or The Collected Poems of Dan Savage. Or whatever.) You have this thing you are loving reading in your backpack. It's the end of the day. You don't really feel like going home and sitting in a chair and reading because it's early, you want to be out in the world for a while, you're in the mood for a drink. But you can't just go to a bar with a book because people at bars hate people with books. (Argue if you must, but they do. Here is Exhibit A. Here is Exhibit B.) The problem seems to be something about being alone in a bar and having no interest in making small talk with other people, which is the de facto purpose of most bars. The response you get usually falls into two camps: (1) Some stranger decides you have no social skills and strikes up a long conversation with you about what your book is about out of misguided pity (see Exhibit B); or, (2) some stranger decides that you believe yourself to be better than them because... you know how to read. Or something. (See Exhibit A.)
A couple years ago, when Annie Wagner worked at The Stranger, she and Brendan Kiley and I would sometimes go to Brendan's apartment or my apartment and drink and eat snacks and read for a couple hours after work. We would have gone out into the world for our reading parties, but imagine how weird that would look: Three people sitting around a bar together reading. We would have been killed. Now Annie lives in Chicago and Brendan doesn't have that apartment anymore and we just stopped doing it.
You know what place would be perfect for a reading party? The Fireside Room at the Sorrento Hotel, with its...
...crazy octagonal shape, walls of Honduran mahogany, and general opulence. Things are tasseled and gilded and overstuffed; lampshades are beaded, surfaces gleam, ottomans create almond-shaped islands of squishy leather. It takes concentration to discern that one side of the octagon isn't a mirror, but a portal to the reception desk. Upholstered chairs wear stripes of varying widths and colors, while already puffy couches bear embarrassments of bonus cushions. Add some amber and white lights and a flock of poinsettias, and it's as if you're somehow wallowing comfortably at the bottom of your great aunt's dish of hard candies on a low dose of a strong hallucinogen.
Plus: fireplace! Well, guess what? The good people at the Sorrento, when presented with the idea recently, were totally into it. They even agreed to extend happy hour all night: $4 wells and house wine, snacks from $.50 to $5. You can pass notes to other people if you like; talking quietly is also fine. But there will be no programming. No one will read anything aloud into a microphone. No one will stand up and say something boring. No one will give you a hard time about reading in a public place, or about what you are reading, and if you decide you're at a stopping place with Netherland or the anniversary issue of The New Yorker or The Collected Poems of Dan Savage and you want to make small talk with someone, there's an actual bar for small-talk-making in the very next room.
The first one is tonight. It's free. It's from 6 pm to 9 pm. Come whenever, leave whenever, bring whatever you feel like reading. Tonight's the first one, and we'll do 'em every other Wednesday (next one will be March 10, the one after that will be March 24) for the next two months. Because no one wants to read alone.