Over the Weekend: Writers Issue Candid Sexuality and Sardonic Raunch at Quiet Lightning

Quiet Lightning
@ the Elbo Room
June 4, 2010

Better than: Reading the latest vampire novel at home, alone.

Last fall, Evan Karp made a name for himself on the local lit scene by reviewing nearly every event in the city's renowned LitQuake Festival for the online community-journalism hub Examiner.com. As the web site's literary culture correspondent, Karp has since covered a dizzying range of gigs, appearing at all the recurring reading series in town. He's written about, videotaped, and posted online his encounters with scores of the novelists, storytellers, poets and otherwise word-obsessed performers that make up the Bay Area's irrepressible literary scene.

Six months back, Karp and Rajshree Chauhan launched their own spoken-word series, Quiet Lightning, with an inclusive, submission-based model that pairs relative newcomers alongside veteran authors. In addition to the monthly showcases, which bring good reads to a variety of venues–from art galleries to nightclubs–QL now also publishes a little 'zine, available for purchase at the shows, comprising the works of the folks on stage.

To celebrate QL's sixth-month mark, Karp asked a dozen of San Francisco's top literary figures to appear in a blowout reading Friday night at the Elbo Room. The enthusiastic assent of these world-class writers and scenemakers, from Stephen Elliott (The Rumpus) to Jennifer Joseph (Manic D Press), underscored the respect the QL founder has earned for his tireless commitment to the cause. As expected, the Mission joint was packed with a mixed crowd hot for live-action words.

A handful of generalizations can be made from this gig about the current crop of Bay Area writers. For one, they lean toward subject matter with meat on the bone — they're unafraid of gritty realism, sardonic raunch, and candid sexuality. Two, they're open-hearted yet not schmaltzy, a tender emotional core driving their creative output. Three, they often weave their stories from personal experience — the work can feel confessional, sure, but it's clearly connected to the greater world. Finally, they are all professional performers with distinctive styles, both entertaining and engaging.

Here's a quick breakdown of QL 6 in order of appearance:

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