By Jeremy Evans
The name says it all.
Friday evening's "Book Bizarre," hosted at the Greater Flint Art Council’s gallery, promises everything its name implies: cleverness, wordplay, books for sale … and a bit of the unusual. Featuring readings and book signings by ten local authors and five spoken word artists, the event promises three hours of vibrant, independent-minded literature.
While what constitutes "bizarre" may be in the eye of the beholder, offerings such as Dangerous Lee's self-described "safe sex erotica" and Chris Reed's absurdist comedy-horror tales can safely be said to lie outside the ordinary.
"We want to entertain the public from inside and outside the pages of a book," said Glen Birdsall, a featured poet and, with Lee and Chris Ringler, a co-creator of the Book Bizarre. Birdsall will be signing copies of his first book of poetry, 36 Chambers of the Taoist, a philosophical collection combining classical styles with a modern sense of experimentation.
Reed agreed with Birdsall that the focus of the event is entertaining the listener—though his definition of "entertain" may seem odd to some. "I’m not sure what the crowd will be like, but if they're there to laugh and puke in their mouths a little, they should enjoy listening to my stuff," Reed joked about his gross-out tales, available for sale in such volumes as Vile Visions and Pain Faces.
David Allard, one of the Friday's spoken word performers, said he is excited to participate in an event that showcases Flint's literary community in particular. "A lot of the focus here is on the music and painting communities," Allard said. "We want to spotlight the writers."
Lee seconded Allard's sentiments. "It's nice to have a platform solely focused on authors," she said. "There are lots of authors in the Flint area, but we're self-published, we don't have agents, so we have to find ways to promote ourselves."
Lee will be signing copies of her new book Keep Your Panties Up and Your Skirt Down, an intriguingly paradoxical title that suggests both the provocative and the chaste—a suggestion that is borne out by the subtitle Six Erotic Tales of Safe Sex. As a community health advocate and HIV testing counselor for Wellness AIDS services in Flint, Lee's book is a perfect synthesis of her passion for writing and her passion for HIV prevention.
Lee explained that the Book Bizarre was initially conceived as a much smaller event—she originally booked the GFAC gallery for a personal book signing as part of her promotional tour. But, realizing that the building's capacity demanded a large crowd, she contacted Birdsall and Ringler (who is also promoting a new book, the fairy tale collection The Meep Sheep) about recruiting more writers, and the Book Bizarre was born.
Lee emphasized that the Book Bizarre is not just about entertainment, but about reaching out to more local writers, as well. "We definitely will be trying to make this a yearly event, so come and sign up for next year," she said. "We want as many people as possible."
Appearing are Dangerous Lee, Chris Reed, Chris Ringler, Glen Birdsall, David Allard, Jennie Moench, Mark Eller, Amber Lakes, KJ Hooten, Chris Reed, Kellean Brandon, Rajah Smart, Olivia Brown, Theory, Arian Muhammad, Drew Nelson. Refreshments will be served.
Book Bizarre is Friday, July 23 from 7-10 p.m., at the Greater Flint Art Council, 816 S. Saginaw St., Flint, MI 48502, and is free to the public.
© Jeremy Evans, 2010