Monday, January 01, 1990

Sex As Entertainment & Scheherazade/Sub-Text

This was my solo performance debut. Clifford Hunt, Tim Badger & Dave Bedell were hosting group poetry readings named for their press, Just Press, hence the Just Press Forum moniker. Each forum had a specific theme, e.g. Erotic Formalism or Cheap Surrealism or this particular evening's: Text As Entertainment.

I had never performed in public solo before so I was nervous & decided to try to do something humorous to get the audience to like me. I started doing a lecture about Sex as Entertainment, using a chart that had Duration of Sexual Activity as X-axis & Entertainment Value as Y-axis, ie for the first 3 hours, the entertainment value of sex rises, then plateaus till hour 5, when it starts to taper off. At this point, Clifford Hunt, acting as my shill, stopped me & told me the evening's theme wasn't Sex but rather Text As Entertainment. Only momentarily abashed, I tore off the chart's X-axis label to reveal another: Number of Pages ie the rising entertainment value of reading plateaus after the first 300 pages & starts to decline after 500.

Everyone was laughing now as I segued into a discussion of how text had been exclusively used to make lists: of names, dry goods, livestock, offspring - until Scheherazade had been forced under threat of death to repurpose text in order to entertain her husband In order to delay her death, she'd invented many of narrative and its primary tropes: suspense for example. While I was talking to the audience about Sheherazade's invention of narrative, my hands were flipping through a series of index cards, visible to the audience, which humorously discussed sub-text and its relation to narrative.

My debut was a big success: people bought me drinks, I got laid, I got published. The whole arc of coming up with an idea in the morning, writing & rehearsing it in the afternoon, performing it in the evening & receiving instant gratification & affirmation, seemed to me to be an excellent way to occupy my time. Of course it would never quite be so simple ever again.