Since moving to Toronto, I have been joining many meet-up groups on Meetup.com. It helped me find a writing group in Austin so I thought it would be a great way to meet people outside of academia here in this new, huge city. Here are my thoughts from my first meeting with Read Out Loud Toronto: a monthly meeting in a coffee shop where lovers of literature come to read out loud to one another. The theme this month: banned or censored books . . .
“I may have been at a table of much older Canadians, but I never mind being the youngest in a room. Especially when there are friendly, quiet listeners like Steve, older yet enthusiastic fiction writers like John, and Jane with her cute beret, polka dot scarf, and stories of growing up with Catch-22 and other (in)famous banned books. And of course, the organizer had his own nerdy charm–plus an amazing store of literary knowledge. He could have given me a run in my high school literary academic team days . . .
I was deeply saddened that one man who joined us silently at the end of the table left abruptly during a reading from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. John tried to run out the front door and catch him, to give him the chance to explain how race relations are still tense, how language can still have a huge effect on our relationships. We wanted a chance to apologize, but mostly a chance to discuss and maybe understand his perspective. But he’d disappeared by the time John could make it to the sidewalk. I never caught the man’s name.
On a more positive note, our last few readings and a discussion of the importance of reading aloud, listening as a skill in today’s world, and the purpose of the group were recorded by two poets also working in Butler’s Pantry that afternoon. Coincidentally, they had come there to work on a new podcast to chronicle their poetry adventures–and stumbled upon our reading, an adventure already in progress.
And of course, I briefly check my phone (blasphemy, I know) only to receive a wonderful email from Lance to say that the Michigan State show is a go. In other words, if I can get back to my computer and focus these vaguely positive literary flutterings into a revision, my next play will be produced and performed in December!”
Obviously, it was a productive outing and had (mostly) positive coincidences surrounding it. I guess great literature attracts great company. I loved hearing banned children’s books, James Joyce, Thomas Paine, The Catcher in the Rye, read aloud and also enjoyed sharing some controversial passages of The Color Purple with the group. I can’t wait for British Literature next month. But what will I pick from that broad category?