BY DAVID HOLUB
Wow. Thanks for having me. And sorry about the shorts. I didn’t realize the other readers would be dressed so nicely. And thank you, JoAnn, for that essay about your kid. Kids do say the darnedest things. Keep sending it out. Editors are bastards.
OK, so I should preface this piece a little. It started when I was at a reading – summer, stately house, one of those why-even-bother microphones. And this guy gets up to read. But before he starts he’s going on about the idea he had to write it, what the piece means, what it’s all about. And he keeps talking, explaining this and that. And I’m like, wait a minute, if I were flipping through an anthology at Barnes and Noble – by the way, doesn’t it just kill you when people call it “Barnes and Nobles?” – but if I came across your piece somewhere, it wouldn’t be preceded by your longwinded explanation where you give us some like-I-could-give-a-shit story of your inspiration, where you explain your story simply, without all the flowery, let’s-see-how-elusive-I-can-get-with-my-bullshit-language bullshit.
So I’m listening to this introduction going on and on, and then I get a glimpse of the piece he brought to read. And it was, like, two pages. The length of the introduction dwarfed the actual piece! So, I was like, “OK I’ve got to write something about that.”
And this is what came of that. Anyway, this piece is called, “This Is The Piece.”
Just to warn you, it is, um, short, basically to mock the idea of all this: a place where the venue is more impressive than any words I’m going to read. I wanted to take this whole charade where we – and who are we? what have we done? any of us – I wanted to take this whole charade where we stand up here all important and self aggrandizing while you’re made to listen. Don’t even get me started on readings. Listen to me. Listen to how brilliant and creative I am.
And people always read too long. Always. Readings always leave people wanting less. Am I right? So yeah, this piece is short, mockingly so, and irreverent. I suppose I wrote “This Is The Piece” to turn all this on its head, to make it not about the writing or language but about the idea, the experience, and, well, to make it one for the ages, where you’ll say something like, “Hey, remember that 312-word piece Holub read, where he was allotted five to ten minutes but used just one minute, 12 seconds? How selfless. And courageous. But he did it all to make a point… you know, to make us think.”
And then you’ll say something like, “What a celebration. What a celebration in the literary arts. What a treasure, that one, Holub is.”
But not only is “This Is the Piece” irreverent and short, it doesn’t give a damn, about you, about me. And because it doesn’t give a damn, it can end at any moment. Like right…now.
Are you kidding? That wasn’t the piece. Stop clapping. You think I’d really do that? When time has been set aside – five to ten minutes — guaranteeing that I am heard? I mean, I live for this, this attention, despite it being a place where the venue is more impressive than any words I’m going to read. To stand up here, eyes on me, ears tuned to my latest stab at hilarious …writing. And then afterword, you’ll linger until I make it over to you and you’ll tell me how talented I am – yeah that’s right – and how the other writers were good, but me, “Mmgh!” and that’s the word – if you can even call it that – that’s the word you’ll use, “Mmgh!” because you lack the verbal agility to instantaneously produce words that convey what you really meant, which was to describe my writing as something like “triumphant” or “transcendent.”
But you know the real heart-breaker? We all know that this is as big as it will ever get for me. And that’s the truth. Stately house, shit microphone. Assville, Connecticut.
Oh but David Holub, you’re such a treasure. I wish I were half as good as you. I love you. Might we have sex? I swear to God…
One thing I did hear is that life is such a struggle for geniuses because they have the ability to see every possibility and are inevitably let down by the world. I’m not saying I’m a genius, but then why is it such a struggle? And lonely, you know? This writing thing, making tangible through words all your ideas, joys, desires, fears, regrets, yearning for the day they might be shared with someone. So yeah, I stand up here and read because it’s what I have. Words on a page. It’s all I have.
Even though readings are bullshit, especially this one, you listening only because you happen to be here, bored as hell if not for the fact that a third of you are on mushrooms, the other half drunk off your asses.
Don’t worry, you’ll be here soon enough. Broken. Delusional. Insulting the audience. Fuck you. Yeah, I remember being in your seat, all of it still on the way, right? Mm-hm. ‘Bout to take the writing world hostage. Thanks to, what, all those craft-improving workshops at – what do they call them these days? – residencies, which are also horseshit by the way. I should rename this piece “What a bunch a horseshit.” But yeah, residencies [sarcastic sing-songy voice] Oh let’s take a week to be a part of a vibrant community of writers, sharing our dreams, encouraging one another. And maybe I’ll even get some writing done that week. When really it’s more like, Let’s get fucked up six nights straight and in the meantime sleep through morning workshops, skip lectures, stuff our fat bastard faces for 45-minutes straight, brownies and cake every night as we bitch about how terrible the food is, all while eyeing the person or persons we’re going to try and sleep with that night. And then show up to evening events drunk off our asses, half of us on shrooms.
OK, calm. Hold it together. Productive. Positive.
So if this were a story and I were its main character, you might ask, “What do I want? What is my desire? All literature is longing.” Do I want fame and money and devout followers? I suppose. But really, I just want you to love me, for you to wrap your arms around my neck, pull me close, whisper, tell me there’s no one you’d rather be with, no one you’d rather dance with, laugh with, eat with, sleep with. No one you’d rather go over a waterfall in a barrel with.
Whatever the hell. Two-thirds of you won’t even remember a word of this, drunk off your asses. And for those of you on shrooms, I must have the head of a donkey child… with purple fire shooting from my webbed hands. Fucking drug addicts.
Just as you finally have the pleasure of hearing work that is – what were the words you used – triumphant and transcendent?
So you know what? I’m not even going to read the piece I brought. I’ve said enough. And I’m outta time. The introduction will have to do. Assholes.