Feast on big ideas, not small talk, at your next party
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.
5. Begin the reading whenever someone feels like selecting an item from the sacred receptacle. The reading of all subsequent excerpts begins in the same way, unless there are lingering comments about a previous selection or an expressed (subtle or vociferous) need for more reflection. Those making the selections may read the items silently to themselves before reading aloud to the group. Someone other than the reader should offer the first comment.
6. Not all items brought need to be read.
7. Not everyone need read an item.
8. Sitting in a circle with candlelight is best.
9. The idea is to let the reading flow like a river that is searching for its course. If there happens to be a three-hour discussion on the first item and you never get to the second, the others can wait until next time. Why not? Nothing is invested here except for time communally shared in thought.
Adapted from Kyoto Journal (#44). Subscriptions: $40/yr. (4 issues) from 35 Minamigoshomachi, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8334 Japan.