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"Not Just Here for the Beer": A KGB Bar Reading



lsrf-kgb.jpgIn my decade in New York, I’ve often been the guy squashed up against the mahogany bar at a crowded reading at KGB Bar, the perfect NYC setting to share stories, drink, and share more stories. As such, it was a special thrill to hold a six-word memoir reading and slam at KGB—and downright mind-blowing to see people packed into the room for it, literally spilling out onto the hall and up the steps.

Rachel and I were honored to have a dozen or so contributors in the house, including the inimitable and hilarious Abby Ellin (“Jew-born. Yeshiva-educated. Date goyim.”), Josh Kilmer-Purcell (“He wore dresses. This caused messes.”), whose humor and elegance makes any room he’s in better, and Ned Vizzini, whose six-word memoir —”Oh shit! No way? Yeah dude.”—finally made (pitch perfect) sense to me when I met the man in person.


Vizzini (pictured on left) went on to read another, oh, 25 six-word memoirs, like:
Born at fifty-third and third: Ramones-er-ific
scrungy block, many homeless, curious smells
neighboring nightclub busted for selling heroin
other neighbor, Avis, has scary employees
at night, insomnia, carried around block

Read another 20 on Vizzini’s blog.

For us, the most inspiring part of a six-word reading is what Rachel likes to call “class participation,” in which anyone in the audience can read a six-word memoir (we have to earn our “slam” status, after all). Sometimes to spur on the inspiration, Rachel will move around a room with a mic and bag of treats (think Oprah meets the Candyman), badgering and bribing people to spill their six. Yet true to KGB Bar’s spirit, she barely had work this crowd—they came to be in the reading, not just listen to it—and about half the house ginned up the courage to reveal their lives with six-word stories such as, “Love drama, just not my own,” “I always stay longer than anticipated,” “Worried the dog liked him better,” and “Nothing interesting, nobody important, not stopping.” And one of the most frustrating/magical moments in any reading is picking up postcards on the floor at the end of the night and finding unsigned gems. At Powell’s in Portland, I unearthed, “I moved in, she moved out.” Last night in New York City, I collected a bunch of beer-stained life stories. Below are a few among them, presented Postsecret-like.

Photos from RandomDeanna. Thanks, D!


  • Martha Garvey
    March 27, 2008

    A contributor laments in six-word memoirs:

    So sorry I missed this reading.

    But sure there will be others!

  • MariElaine
    March 27, 2008

    So charming. Glad I didn’t delete.

  • lopaka
    March 27, 2008

    this is a pithing contest

  • Samira Roseblood
    March 28, 2008

    work sucks, then death, live on

  • Beer Tours
    April 7, 2008

    Great post. Really enjoyed it. I will have to bookmark your site for later.

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    December 2, 2008

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