"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Butterfly Orgy at Moth StorySLAM

Moth stage setup at the Circus Bar in Ann Arbor, Michigan

I attended my first Moth StorySLAM in Ann Arbor solely to listen. To see if the Moth scene, famous for its NPR show, could be an invigorating hangout for a struggling writer like me. People stand up and tell true stories without script or notes. Five minute time limit. Forgiving the beer and vulgarity, it is a communal ritual strangely reminiscent of the Mormon testimony meetings of my childhood.

I arrived 90 minutes early to ensure myself a seat. I intended only to listen. 45 minutes before showtime the announcer said, "We only have four storytellers signed up so far. That's really shitty." Awkward laughter from all of us who showed up only to listen. "The show won't start until we have ten storytellers signed up."

For several slow minutes, I balked. Then, finally, I signed up to tell a story. After all, the theme for this StorySLAM was "Song." I had plenty of possibilities. The moment I committed, butterflies started having an orgy in my stomach. Not an elegant analogy but I want you to get a feel for the types of stories that were told. I also want you to sense the raw beauty of our emcee's banter.

"How many of you are at Moth StorySLAM for the first time?" asked our kickass emcee Satori Shakoor. I and many others raised our sheepish hands. "You all are Moth virgins." She said this with a hearty and inclusive smile. She ensured us we were all in this storytelling experience together. 

Names were drawn from a hat. And the orgasm-enjoying butterflies in my stomach predicted my name would be drawn first. They were correct.

I shuffled up to the stage, picked a smiling blurry blond at the distant back of the bar, and told her about the time I interrupted a rehearsal at the Purple Rose Theatre Company and sang the song "Simple Gifts" onstage. The blond, and many others, laughed at the moments I hoped they would. I surfed the rush as best I could. Then I sat down, became part of the crowd, no longer a Moth virgin.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In Truth, 'Blood Will Out'

Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a MasqueradeBlood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Understatement: It is a violent world.

Just now, I listened to the morning news while wolfing down breakfast at a local cafe. 100 percent of the coverage I heard was about recent violence, violence in progress, and the prospect of violence in the future. To say the least, we are a violent species.

Yet, as Walter Kirn points out in his new non-fiction work, Blood Will Out, we humans are also capable of great tolerance and cooperation. That is not a wonderful thing. Kirn explores how these traits--in concert with our desire for acceptance--make us easy pickins for psycopaths.

In Blood Will Out, Kirn casts himself as the thoughtful dupe of a murdering con man. The premise is so oddly touching it borders on hard to believe. Kirn agrees to drive an ailing dog across country and deliver it to a member of the Rockefeller family. Sounds like a great start to a novel. However this is a true story. Or at least it is the recounting of a great deal of lying.

The book flips back and forth between a murder trial in the present and a rocky friendship in the past. This dual plotline allows the author to draw parallels between con artist and mark. In every chapter, the implicit question being begged is "Kirn, how did you fall for this guy's claims?" Therefore, the book's greatest accomplishment is its candid rendering of how Kirn, or any of us, can be grandly duped.

Blood Will Out is a fairly quick read. This is not an in-depth exploration of forensics and crime investigation. It is a memoir about the bond between two men: the deceiver and the deceived. Doubtless, some will be cynical of Kirn's choice to convert his unflattering experience into a moneymaking bestseller. Still, he seems candid about his personal shortcomings and offers up a tale with plenty of healthy caution for the reader. I highly recommend Blood Will Out.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 9, 2014