Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Should Check Out Lip Service

Before I began submitting stories for Lip Service, I heard tell of them from my co-workers. Books & Books always underestimated the turnout, rarely having enough chairs, cramming far too many people into too tight of a space. This is a better event than the alternative, of course.

Usually the only person with a book to sell at Lip Service is its co-founder Andrea Askowitz, author of the hilarious and moving (and far less trite than that descriptor) My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy. She always sells a few copies, but I wonder what all those bodies mean for business in general. I spot a few wine glasses and beers, but not many books. Nearly everyone snags a parking stamp, each stamp paid for by Books & Books.

Well, so what? More than money, the main event is the community, coming together, supporting each-other’s truths.

I watched number 12, featuring Heartbreak Pill author Anjanette Delgado and Secret Names of Women author Lynne Barrett. As an audience member, I didn't need to worry about when it was my turn. The evening was moving, funny, uncomfortable, and thought-provoking. I had a great time.

Esther Martinez is Lip Service’s other co-founder. Telenovela, her story of her mother’s infidelity, was simultaneously as funny and poignant as the best of David Sedaris.

My favorite of the evening was Jonathon Irpino’s hilarious Cuddle It Out. We always love the things which make us laugh more than what we admire. You can probably say that for people, too.

These stories I’ve mentioned, along with Lynne Barret’s perfect The Borges Cure, seem complete in a way my work never is. Probably because, as they say, the hard part of art is knowing when it’s finished. I’m sure if I spoke with the writers afterwards, I’d hear about the parts they hated, how they wished they’d taken more time, about how it was supposed to end this way but ended up another. I wasn’t feeling social, so I’ll never know.

I identified most with Andrea Askowitz's story. She’s written a book, she’s working on her second, she’s given a lot of local writers play they wouldn’t otherwise have through Lip Service, she’s directed a non-profit organization, she has a lovely wife and two children, but it’s not enough.

“I want to be famous," she said. "I want to be a great talent. I want my work to be recognized.” I want, I want, I want. Her words embodied my own insecurities and desires.

The piece was mostly about her mother, who sat in the back row. When Andrea read the part where her mother says “How did the time go so fast?" and "gets a little tear in one eye," those of us a row or two away clearly heard Askowitz’s mother respond by saying, “bullshit.”

I identified with that, too. Writers are completely full of shit, so why should memoirs be any different? Truth, what’s that? You mean, how I saw it? We were both there, but I wrote it down and you didn’t. I’m right (write?) and you’re wrong because my words are in print.

I quote the narrator of John Dufresne's honey and broken glass Requiem, Mass:

“I’m sorry if you’re offended, but sometimes a writer needs to bend the truth to fit a more efficient and attractive shape. And sometimes a writer finds that he has to flat-out make things up because that’s the way he wants or believes his life to have been. So he changes the truth to change the facts because he’s trying to make sense of his life, and the life he knows he lived is not always the life his fallible memory recalls.”

You’ve been warned.

Now keep your eye out for the next night of Lip Service, because it’s well worth the price of admission. Which is nothing but your time, and your attention.


  1. Or in my case, a flight and a hotel stay......

    Sounds interesting though. I've got my priority membership for the Edinburgh book festival and am looking forward to the advance notice listings coming out shortly.


  2. Wow. What a perfect and glowing description of Lip Service. Makes me want to be there. Thank you.


  3. Thanks Aaron, for your faithful support of Lips, and for your contributions which have been among the best, I think. Can't wait for the next show. By the way, we'll need more chairs :)


  4. That's right, Al. I keep forgetting "Sweet" is international.

    I thought the Miami Book Fair was impressive with 400+ events, but Edinburgh boasts (as they say) over 700 events. Wowza!

    And you probably get the greats who don't like to pop over the pond, or who usually avoid Miami in favor of New York when they do. Ian Rankin, Zadie Smith, David Mitchell, JK Rowling.

    Damn Miami's non-literary reputation!

    - AJC

  5. Andrea,

    Having watched as an audience member, you may never see my words in print again. You really created something great.

    Andrea, I should also point out that I identified with your desire to have my genius writ large on the literary scene, yet I have no accomplishments like yours to keep me warm at night. You might not think much of your writing career at times, but you (and Esther) both inspire those of us making our first tentative steps toward a larger audience.

    Thanks for reading,

    - Aaron