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Friday, November 14, 2003
"Her lap should smell good, like Aquafresh!"
On Monday literary. superstar Dave Eggers made a Portland appearance at the Aladdin Theater. He was the keynote speaker at a fundraising event for Writing Around Portland, a local writers collective.
When I arrived, the street in front of the theater was filled with squad cars and fire trucks. News copters were circling overhead. At first, I thought it was some sort of McSweeny's stunt. A line of wrapped around the block. Egger's personal appearances are noted for their practical jokes. Had Eggers' minions set the place on fire?
No, a house down the street was ablaze. It was quickly extinguished. Back at the Aladdin, the place was filled to capacity with people wrapped in vintage clothing. I was wearing the only pair of jeans in a crowd of over a thousand people.
WRAP supports local disadvantaged students. After a series of stories read by the homeless and AIDS victims, Eggers strolled out on stage, smiling like a clown, and oblivious to somberness of the evening. He began with a series of anecdotes from 826 Valencia, his pirate store/children's writing project in San Francisco.
In an effort to terrorize...er, teach kids the joy of writing, field trip groups compose short stories. To add a sense of immediacy and madness to the project, a volunteer plays "Mr. Blue," the fictional editorial overlord of Valencia. In a deep voice, they shout from a room adjacent to the children, demanding the stories be finished at once. When the children ask to meet with Mr. Blue, they are told he weighs 600 pounds, is covered in boils and never meets visitors. Written under great duress, the best of these stories are posted on McSweeny's, the author's online literary journal.
Later, Egger's read from his latest work co-authored with his infamous younger brother Toph. Titled "Giraffes? GIRAFFES!" the short picture book is an absurdist scientific journal on the speices. Apparently, all giraffes live n Indiana and love ceiling fans. Every ten years, they construct a gigantic elevator which they use to move their community from one state to another.
After Egger's giddy presentation, WRAP's writers returned with lengthy stories about overcoming cancer and tossing rape victims off bridges. The crowd, almost entirely fresh-faced and undergraduate, had come for, well, post-modern tales about giraffes. They shifted in their seats as an elderly woman detailed her despondent battles with her daughter. Out in the lobby, people were chuckling and drinking microbrews. I was sitting by the backdoor. It was like watching a movie of the week with a laughtrack.
Eggers returned for a second round and broke into a obscenity-filled story about a horny teenager's lust for his middle-aged neighbor. One quote from this: "I wonder what her lap smells like. It It should smell good, like Aquafresh! Not dusty and murky, like an antiques store." The author stopped himself before delving into a scatological passage, out of respect for the other writers. The audience muttered and let out a gigantic "awwwwwwwww!"
Later, I stood in a line to get my copy of "You Shall Know Our Velocity" signed. While waiting, I thought of various "witty" things to say.
- "So you're the guy that wrote the book about the guys who beat each other up and try to take over the world, huh?"
- "I know you answered this question twice during the presentation, but where the hell is Toph?"
- "Could you sign my tits?" (Blog does not have tits).
- "So you're the guy who wrote the book about the dinosaurs in a theme park, huh? I really liked that one."
When it came time to step up to the plate, here's how the conversation went down.
"Yup, that's me."
"Here you go Blog."
"Thank you. "
Is this as interesting as what happened at the following Chuck Palahniuk signing?:
"You really want to me to sign this 'To a dumbass?'"
"Why would you want me to do such a thing?"
"Uh, I don't know. It's neat?"
[Palahniuk starts to sign] "I have no idea what to write to a dumbass."
"Maybe something inspirational?"
Here's what Egger's wrote [real name removed. Why? Why not?]:
Here's what Palahniuk wrote:
Here is a picture of John Stamos: