The map is not the territory

Chicago has this thing, the “live lit” scene. Live, literature; stories and essays and poems performed for an audience.  There was a long time when this genre didn’t have a name. I don’t know how this name came around, but here we are. Live. Lit.

I’m mostly a writer for the page. I once thought that if only I practiced enough, I’d get really good at performing. This is not true. I can’t get better at whistling, either. I always sound like a teapot. But I like it. From the stage or the audience, I like it. Not being alone with words feels healthy.

The venerable Mike Doughty says it well in the NY Times this week.

The most challenging Borgesian map-versus-territory aspect in playing these songs isn’t technical, but — if you’ll allow me to be a hippie here — spiritual. A live performance’s intensity of focus — both mine and the audience’s — can’t be replicated in rehearsal. There’s a communal mind to be navigated. What’s gratifying to me about playing to an audience isn’t the applause; it’s the oceanic feeling of fused consciousness. You can’t rehearse that — it’d be like rehearsing the Himalayas.

In other news of literature and metaphorical geography, this poem of Scoddy’s is perfect with a Saturday morning cup of coffee:


contemporary Mexican poetry

an unexpected gift:

someone found a book in the street

and passed it to me.

I guess I am known as a reader of

thick books.


so contemporary Mexican poetry

falls into my lap

and makes me consider

the nature of such events


if it’s your book,

please give me a little time to digest it,

before you whistle it back home

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