Write Club Atlanta, hosted at PushPush Theater in Decatur earlier this month, buzzed with the immediacy of a good old rock ’n’ roll show. The coffee shop vibe I expected from a Wednesday night literary gathering was waning by 8:30 as people streamed in and began piling into the back, glancing around for acquaintances, and cheerfully plopping onto couches in the hookah lounge style.
The room darkened into a loud, eclectic jumble of background music and anticipation as nine o’clock approached. Though it had the spirit of a rock show, the event started quite promptly—literary events seem to have a polite, humble charm that other genres of art long ago brushed away to signal their hipness. Rather than the ding of a boxing bell, a raucous blaring of metal music accompanied Nick Tecosky’s triumphant Rocky run to the stage.
Tecosky, Write Club’s fancifully titled viceroy, was also one of the wordsmiths of the evening. His tale conveniently emphasized Write Club’s strengths as an energetic, read-aloud competition: piracy, adventure, accents, singing, and a general sense of swagger corralled into a story that began on the high seas. The tale-within-a-tale reverses the typical storybook narration, as Tecosky’s pirate captain tells his captivated crew of the legendary Grey Man, who spends day after day as a bagel-eating, tie-wearing, cubicle-dwelling, Will & Grace-rerun-watching worker drone of the 21st century. The captain treats the Grey Man with tenderness, though, describing his forgettable life as a blessing. The crew feels the weight of memory all around them, “sharp and present … pressed against their brains.” In Tecosky’s story, history never forgets itself and modernity can’t tell one day from the next, yet braided together they are shown as equally dreadful.
Truly in the spirit of a literary bout, Jane O’Connor and Heather Buzzard—presenting on love and lust, respectively—bounded to the stage in a wild dance involving mock fisticuffs. Friends off the stage and writers with entirely dissonant styles, they delivered a competition that was both playful and fierce. While I sat beside them earlier in the evening, they half-kiddingly, completely nervously practiced the rock-paper-scissors match they would employ onstage to determine who would read first. Jane’s rock crushed Heather’s scissors, and in an attempt to get rid of her nerves as hastily as possible, Jane chose to share first. She told us, like a close friend over a round of margaritas might, of her various failed relationships and her valiant quest for true love. Her quavering rasp of a voice effortlessly nudged her sentimentality into intermittent been-there-done-that laughter from the crowd. At one point she talked of her first crush, at a young age, on someone who “made me feel like I had to pee every time I looked at him”—that’s some girl talk you won’t hear on any episode of Sex and the City, and it made me want to high-five her and give her a hug at the same time.
Heather Buzzard’s tongue-twisty torrent of words caused a collective stiffening of postures as the audience leaned in to catch every nonsensical rhyme in her Dr. Seussical words. The limerick quality of “Did I Ever Tell You How Lusty You Are?” cleverly assures us that we are all lusty in our own way—especially in comparison to the poor souls in her poem. Some of her lustless characters’ impotence makes their “meat dogs … shlump in a heap,” while the unfortunate “Professor de Sleaze with a fetish for sneezes” seeks a mate with a bit of a cold. The other lustless lovers are “liplocked and cockblocked and scary to screw”—the kind everyone wishes would hit on someone else at bars. The perils of love and lust didn’t seem so bleak after Heather’s affirmations of our busty lustiness and after Jane’s hopeful last line: “People try for love, because love is fuckin’ worth it.” The general consensus of the crowd on that day after Valentine’s Day was miraculously buoyant and rowdy.
The sound of such personal stories read aloud made camaraderie resonate throughout the small space. Literature is normally such a solitary act—one person huddled in a chair, overwhelmingly attentive to one little object. Write Club knows we’re lonely for literary companionship and wants us to leave the house every once in a while. So long as we follow the first rule of Write Club, which is to tell five to seven people about Write Club, they’ll keep throwing us literature nerds a party.