Third Coast Review’s Live Lit Series Kill Your Darlings: A Live Lit Mash-up ended last week with an evening themed around literature, alcohol and the storytelling tradition that ties the two together.
The evening was hosted by Northwestern University’s Bill Savage who’s responsible for the annotated re-release to George Ade’s 1931 treatise purporting to explain saloon culture to Americans raised on temperance: The Old Time Saloon: Not wet, not dry, just history, out in November from University of Chicago Press. Bill introduced the evening’s theme and shared pieces of Chicago history that linked to elements in each reader’s story.
Do you ever think you were born at the wrong time? This is the question Nancy Bishop posed at the beginning of her essay about the Spanish Civil War. There are some cultural movements and eras in history that make so much sense even years removed. Did you know a number of Chicagoans went to Spain to fight in the war? The liberal support for the war connected artists and intellectuals internationally, but this was not enough to defeat Franco. Bill Savage connected this to Chicago by pointing out that Balbo Drive is named after Italo Balbo, the leader of Italy’s air force under Mussolini.
Swings in popular opinion are mighty. Just as it might seem crazy to us today to ban alcohol nationwide, the temperance movement somehow made sense to early 20th century Americans.
The evening’s next reader, a Northwestern University Creative Writing teacher, played with themes that might make prohibition seem more reasonable. Iggy Valentine Aloysius’s story reflected one of the common arguments for the temperance movement. He read an excerpt from his novel Fishhead. Republic of Want. which involved the main character, a young boy in India, following his father and discovering his alcoholism. Read excerpts of Fishhead. Republic of Want. in our Lit section soon.
Actress and writer Emily Drevets read a piece about eating sadness. She morphed its varieties– its shades and flavors– into varieties of apples. Bill Savage coupled this story by talking about the myth of Johnny Appleseed, a man who sold crabapple seeds to farmers so they might make hard cider despite the nation’s push for prohibition.
I shared a story about Stella Walsh, an intersex Olympian, Cleveland celebrity, and heavy drinker. Stella lived as a woman and pushed boundaries by working as a bartender. In my story she challenges a Cleveland sportswriter, Dan Coughlin, to a foot race and the two of them spend the rest of the day drinking like the friends they were.
Karin McKie, the creator and producer of Kill Your Darlings, shared a harrowing true story about her recent romantic relationship with a serial dater and alcoholic attempting to spread his herpes to as many women as he can in a short amount of time. He connects with his victims through literature, introduces them to his child, takes them for trips to his cabin and well you’ll have to ask Karin about the rest.
Local storyteller Ben Tanzer closed the evening out on a happy note with a short story from his recently published Be Cool. “Drinking: A Love Story” describes the night he decided he wanted to propose to his wife.
The night also featured improv games from some very talented Comedy Sportz house team members including Dan Oliver, Nancy Fast, Lou Leonardo, Allison Ungar and Paula Skaggs.
Stay tuned for Third Coast Review’s next performance series.