To help recuperate money spent on throwing a two-day music festival in September 2011, my friends and I organized a literary reading at our local pizzeria and watering hole, Rivermont Pizza.
I’ve been known to do foolhardy things -- to get an idea in my head and pursue it to its furthest extreme. An example? Right now comes to mind. Many of my efforts outside of my employment hinge upon Lynchburg's art scene, and what I’d like to see it become.
Specifically, my friends and I put on the Hill City Roots (a.k.a. Seven Hills Folk Festival) music festival in September, when everyone and everything told us it would not happen. Everything was working against us, even our own haphazard schemes toward organizing it.
It did happen. Albeit, the turnout was not what we’d hoped, but it wasn’t anything surprising. Same weekend as one of the biggest parties downtown Lynchburg throws every year. Same weekend as Randolph College’s alumnae weekend. Same weekend as Land Jam. But it happened. And we learned a lot.
So, it’s nice when things fit together without much in the way of glitches. The Nov. 10 Prose & Pizza, Volume I, reading at Rivermont Pizza has given us a much-needed embrace of afirmation. Kick-ass posters and handbills were designed by Gabriella Muglia and printed by Bright Images. And our readers (Adam Davies, Chris Gaumer and Vic Sizemore) were amazing, which came as no surprise.
The turnout, however, pushed the limits of our expectations.
I arrived on location at 7:20 p.m. that night, coming straight from working on the second installment of the Rivermont Pizza Christmas album. We set up, had a couple of drinks and waited for the crowd to trickle in.
Except “trickle” isn’t quite accurate. The small, graffitied room swelled with 70 people before we had a chance to check our watches.
Vic, one of my closest friends, kicked everything off. It could have been the beer, my over-analytical nature or a combination of several factors, but I perceived a disengaged stillness in the room. I wondered if people were paying attention at first, and remembered that I botched the introduction.
“Who is this white guy with an afro?” they must wonder. “And this reader wearing a Big Lebowski T-shirt -- why should I listen?”
Whether my thinking was based on reality or just nerves soon became irrelevant. Lights sparked, pair-by-pair, in the eyes that exchanged glances with familiar eyes.
It was clear: My boy’s got skills.
Vic finished his reading. It was a story that developed and revealed itself in the way that only good stories do; a story that the audience becomes engrossed in and really experiences. John Gardner calls it the “fictive dream.” You forget you’re reading a story or listening to someone read to you, and simply exist in the dialogue and subtle details.
Flannery O’Connor said that a great piece of fiction can’t be described to people who ask you what it’s about. You just have to read it. In the same way, I doubt anyone walking away after Vic finished could have explained to anyone what his story was about. The listener did, however, know what it was about because he or she experienced it -- in 1080p HD.
The crowd’s enthusiasm did not wane as the evening progressed. Chris Gaumer (another good friend of mine of more than eight years) adjusted the microphone, took a breath and took off.
I’m sure I had a stupid-ass grin on my face the whole time, but I wasn’t alone. My friend Leah could sit up straight for only so long before her torso lurched forward in laughter.
Was it that good. Yes, it was that good. And it was in Lynchburg.
Eat it, naysayers.
And it’s no easy thing what Chris accomplished -- standing in front of friends, students, colleagues and strangers, to lay dozens of hours worth of hard work out in the open. Especially when some of it dealt with the nature of his being beleaguered by ubiquitous bed wetting and therefore unable (mostly) to attend childhood sleepovers.
Novelist and Lynchburg College writer-in-residence Adam Davies did not fail to live up to expectations. He read a few scenes from the highly-praised “Mine All Mine,” with details that would have made everyone uncomfortable if they had not been so amusing.
And, Adam, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for the glass of Jameson -- warmed my soul, it did.
And thank you, attendees, for being there. Despite being packed in like bondiola rellena, you all sat through like champs, and we all had a great time.
Humbled and excited for our future events. Stay tuned as This Is Lynchburg takes our readings on the road -- we’ll be gracing various restaurants around the city for later readings, and will definitely host more at Rivermont Pizza.
My name is Marcelo Asher Quarantotto.I WRITE WITH WORDS, PHOTOS, VIDEOS, WEBSITES AND MUSIC.
I am a father of three beautiful daughters and husband to the most gracious, saintly creature I've ever met. (You'll find pictures of them here from time to time.) I am also a multidisciplinary storyteller.