Entering the East side of Hastings always seems to be marked by some dramatic event. Last night I rode the 20 from Granville to drop in on a reading at Spartacus books, which sits on the corner of Heatley and Hastings. As we traveled past the 0 point between East and West Vancouver, an old man got on in an battered tweed suit, a thick beard neatly trimmed below a sweaty brow and red eyes that said he had probably been drinking. The man muttered to the bus driver that he should have stopped closer to the sign, tossing in a few swears for flavour.
The bus driver was all muscle, arms decorated by faux Celtic tattoos and flexed sinew hanging ape-like from his sleeveless uniform (who designed those uniforms exactly? Maybe he had his specially tailored by Ed Hardy). He followed the old man half-way down the bus, his voice close to shouting. A younger man kept saying, “now’s not the time, man.” But for a moment I thought our ride was over–it’s happened before, a driver having a meltdown mid-trip and ordering all the riders off–but finally he backed off and pulled the bus away muttering, “tell me how to drive my bus.”
So my adrenalin was pumping when I finally made it to Spartacus Books and the reading was in full swing.
Microfiction is a tough genre. It seems like the sort of thing you should just be able to pop off, but, like prose poetry, it’s brevity masks its complexity. Great micro-fiction is like the Tardis–bigger on the inside. This particular reading offered some really interesting peaks into works in progress and brought some new voices to the stage. Organizer Craig MacKie provided a framework for first-time readings by Luke Hillan, who took on superheroes and leprechauns, and Maren Lisac, who presented various musings on the deeper meanings of swimming pools. Later in the evening Mark Dahl read from his and MacKie’s post-apocalyptic collaboration about weeping zombies. The evening rapped up with a rare short story from poet Donato Mancini, a grotesque and haunting tale of a vampire living as part of Vancouver’s homeless population.
Coming from Edmonton, where the community is simply too small to support a varied literary landscape, I can’t help but feel that readings like this are part of the fun of living in a big city (just as witnessing bus driver meltdowns is one of the hazards). I’ve been to a lot of interesting readings, big and small, over the last year. I sat at the back balcony and squinted to see a tiny David Sedaris speak, then stood in line for an hour in order to have an awkward, rushed discussion in which I’m pretty sure I came off as an ass. I saw Ivan E. Coyote tell the hilarious and perfectly-timed story of going to a barber shop for the first time. But my favourite readings are the ones where the author isn’t rushed off stage Elvis-style after the performance. I’d much prefer to sit in a packed bookstore with a can of lager and feel like part of a community rather than an admirer.