Word Play

Feast on big ideas, not small talk, at your next party

| November/December 2000

Are you looking for a new way to bring together friends for an evening of good food and conversation? Try hosting a reading. You'll break out of the usual talk about work or children or 'how long it's been since we last met.' Readings present a chance to celebrate, appreciate, and reflect upon words in a different way--the written word. Discussions can last for a minute, or 10, or 60--as long as it takes to digest the full extent of the work being read. Most importantly, a reading surrounds you with friends and fills your mind with fertile thoughts for the weeks ahead.

Creating a Reading

Please keep in mind that any of these 'rules' can be ignored, renovated, laughed at, spat upon, rebelled against, or altered.

1. Invite some interesting people over.

2. Choose something to be read. Your selection can be from any source--novels, short stories, poems, essays, research papers, personal letters--and may be on any subject. It can be complete in itself (a poem), a biopsy of a longer piece (a paragraph or two from a novel), a simple sentence (a quotation), or even a single word (indecision). Each selection must be no longer than what comfortably fits on one side of an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper. It should be photocopied or typed without any indication as to the writer, the source, or the person who has made the selection. In other words, it must be as anonymous as your last bowl of rice. Although the voice of the author may be quickly recognized, the person who has made the selection must make a solemn oath to the spirits of Tolstoy, Lady Murasaki, Conrad, and Lao Tsu that the name of the author shall not be revealed (at least until later, after discussion has ended). Each participant may bring up to three selections. Each selection should be folded three times.

3. Choose a drink and a dish to share. Wine is the preferred provocateur, but any drink is acceptable.

4. As the guests arrive, have them place their selections in the 'sacred receptacle,' a box or basket placed in the center of a table. When everyone has arrived, designate someone to give the receptacle a generous shake.

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