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Notes from a Dancing Bear October 19, 2009

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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As I noted last week, author Stephen Elliott of The Adderall Diaries and Happy Baby will be in New Orleans tomorrow night talking about about work and signing his book. The Adderall diaries is a fascinating work of biography not quite masquerading as crime fiction so much as merging with it. If you visit here much you probably understand my interest in anyone who explores (and tests the boundaries of) memoir as creative non-fiction.

I hope to go but I think I have to find someone to go with so I won’t be the only person there who doesn’t look like R. Crumb’s Speed Kills caricature or who isn’t there hoping to score outré sex with the author. If I don’t make it for some reason (namely safe escort for my sorry, chino-and-polo-shirted self), I hope someone who reads this will ask him this question and get back to me with the answer:

I understand the natural intersection of the true crime story with Elliott’s own, but why does be believe that occurred to him (even if it was initially unconscious) as the logical narrative engine for his own story and why does he think it works? Did the two threads just overlap as he wrote spontaneously and somehow interleave themselves successfully? Or was it something he stitched together from two narrative threads as he re-wrote and why? I think I know the answer but I am curious to hear Elliott’s version. (Should I write it at the bottom upside down so we can compare my guess with Elliott’s answer?).

If I don’t make it but you do, hypocrite lecteur, and ask my question and share his response, well then I’ll have to find someway to repay you. I can buy you a drink (or many as the discussion of his answer, my guess, and the rest plays out) so long as what you drink isn’t kept in a locked cabinet the bartender has to ask for the key to open.


This will probably sound like boring crowing but I finally broke down and read some things at the Maple Street Bar’s longstanding poetry series on Sunday. It was awkward when I first walked into a small group of people who clearly knew each other (and knew the quiet people sitting alone in the corners). I think it helped to be greeted so kindly (and loudly) by the featured reader, Dave Brinks, who I learned visits here often and rather liked what I wrote about his recent book The Caveat Onus. In the end they proved a very charming and very talented group of people people. Open mike can be a gamble to listen to but what I heard ranged from the entertaining to the stunning, and I felt quite at home by the time I left.

I probably wouldn’t have stood up to read (or started submitting things until I finally got an acceptance) without some encouragement from a few people I should thank. First Robin, who put a link to my old Poems Before Breakfast site under her listing of New Orleans Poets long before I deserved it. Second is Sam who reads much of what I write and gushes far too much (which is valuable as rejection slips start to pile up) but who I trust implicitly will tell me if I show her crap.

Finally I should thank Everette Maddox. The first time I stood up at the Maple Leaf’s microphone was two weeks ago at the book launch for the UNO Press selected works I Hope Its Not Over, And Goodbye. Reading his revered words to the audience was an exhilarating experience, and got me hooked on the idea of finally breaking down and reading my own. The long departed Maddox, who founded the Maple Leaf poetry reading series, was famous for his encouragement of young (or, um, inexperienced) poets. For his little nudge from beyond the grave, my eternal thanks.


I felt guilty at first sticking these bits of nothing from my life up here, but I spent far too much time today thinking about a problem I struggle with here on Toulouse Street: the temptation to look at Toulouse Street as a place where I can only post long, thoughtful pieces like the recent Rain Street or something like The Slow Noon Burn of June 16, the problem I used to refer to as More Lewis Lapham Than Thou when I struggled with it over essays about New Orleans on Wet Bank Guide.

I think this is a mistake, as the universe of online writing we call blogging is more akin to early television than anything else. There is room for the thoughtful dramas of Golden Age Television but an equal demand for men spinning plates atop sticks while the Flight of the Bumble Bee plays frantically.

When I wasn’t afraid to jot down short thoughts and musings as I did more frequently in the early days of this blog, more people tended to stop by. Maybe I am as entertaining as I think I am when I’m drinking. It’s entirely possible. Or perhaps the more crap you throw at the wall, the more will stick. Either way, I think it’s time for the Dancing Bear to dust off his metaphorical unicycle and stop worrying so damn much.