On a field of lights, on a stage bare except for a podium, a big chair, and a neon rectangle that could have been a James Turrell design, Laurie Anderson performed violin, made vocal sound, and mused on many topics at Guild Hall Saturday night. What if we renamed the planet Dirt, she challenged: "Then we could have Dirt Day."
Much of what this edgy performance artist had to say in this hour and half tour de force evening turned on language, tautologies, syllogisms, puns, and mechanisms of voice such as the pillow speaker Anderson demonstrated in her mouth, distorting her sound so well suited to monologue. The neon rectangle turned into a screen for a home movie featuring her dog Lulabelle, taught to play piano.
Words matter. On Thursday, the Guild Hall stage became a forum for great storytelling. Cedering Fox, an LA based producer and founder of WordTheatre, was back, matching Pushcart Prize winning tales to actors for an evening of readings. A founding editor of the Pushcart Prize with Bill Henderson, Joyce Carol Oates was host, with two of her stories read by Chris Bauer and Polly Draper. The famously prolific Oates also read her own "Party." Harris Yulin read a story by Fox's mother Siv Cedering, the late award-winning poet, about a man and the love of his life called "My Uncle's Numbers." Actor Gary Dourdan read Aimee Bender's "Mother f--ker," about a man who does just that--with mothers.
"Tangier 1975," a story by Paul Bowles published in his collection Call at Corazon opened the evening. At a champagne and dessert reception, its reader Tracee Chimo told me she was turned on to find more from this famous American expatriate, whose sinister story expressed his paranoia about living in the midcentury North African hangout, the crossroads of luxe, languor, and louche. So far from Western culture, Bowles was surprised that in 1991, Oates had been instrumental in his receiving the Rea Award for Short Story.
Another author was celebrated on a recent sunny Sunday, for a new book, Asylum. Wearing fashionably mismatched shirt and shorts, Simon Doonan chatted about his upbringing, family, American migration from England, dressing windows at Barney's, life out east and marriage to Jonathan Adler with Fern Mallis at Guild Hall. Even though it was a gorgeous beach day, I wasn't going to miss it because I had heard him speak at a memorial for his friend, and one of the famed "Wacky Chicks" in his book of that title, the jewelry designer Kazuko. Can somebody be this humorous speaking about a dead friend, I thought. He can talk about anything.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.