Word Play

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

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

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.

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