Q (Nicolle Elizabeth): Hey Tim. We usually interview group admins but now and then we do a check in with people active in other ways. You run the award winning Dire Reading Series in Cambridge (Boston) and are the co-founder of the Somerville Literary Festival and I think have written eight books. Nick Flynn once said to me that he likened the reading out part of being a writer to being a traveling minstrel, going from township to township, spreading the song, as it were. Why do you feel authors reading their work to an audience is important? How does the experience change our relationship to the work?
A (Timothy Gager): Nick Flynn is a traveling minstrel. He does so many appearances and when you run into him he has a giant cup of coffee and the deepest darkest circles you’d ever want to see—and it’s all from working. He’s a terrific guy to talk to—just awesome. I think readings are important but only if you can connect with the audience. You sell more books at signings and meet and greets but that is because you are connecting with folks. If you’re a really bad live reader you’re less likely to form that bond with the audience as well. It’s funny, some really great writers, if they read poorly do themselves a real disservice. On the flipside I’ve been to great readings, bought the book and ended up feeling tricked.
When I’m reading, all the little things you hate about your work seem even more magnified in your head. Or you might suddenly realize, geez, I used the word “fuck” a lot in that story.
Have you ever seen Mark E. Smith perform in person? How do you feel that the cross-over between punk performances and literature meets if at all? RIP Jim Carroll ye are missed.
That was so early eighties. Ginsberg singing with The Clash. I don’t think Jim Carroll would have made an album without that crossover, without punk emerging on the scene at that time. Catholic Boy was considered a punk record when it came out. Now if you listen, it’s like, ok, really? I liked his work with Rancid. Sometimes I’ll just shout out, “Out come the wolves” in the middle of a supermarket.
Punk is all about attitude and non-acceptance. Bukowski was a punk. I think literature and performance can cross over if the attitude is there. Non-acceptance doesn’t work that well. Very rarely will you get read or have an audience if you alienate them, unless you are iconic because of it.
Start a group for the Dire Reading Series puhlease? Q2 pt2: What is your favorite book this year and why?
I have the mailing list and I have the Facebook invite list. A group for Dire would be another thing I’d have to go to to bother the same people about the event update. It might be cool if I could post a story a month from each of the features. That would be cool. Sorry, I don’t think I’m supposed to be using these questions for brainstorming.
Hmmmm, favorite book of this year? I’ve re-read a lot of novels that I’ve enjoyed in the past and also pieces of fiction or poetry within anthologies. I’ve been busy writing and working on The Somerville News Writers Festival that reading a novel front to back ends up making me feel guilty or something. Oh, I did like the Patti Smith book.
Do you think that people can learn to read well or is it a natural gift thing? (I had a year of bad readings once it was from sudden insecurity, but it melted sort of) What advice can you offer people who would like to work on their readings?
I think people can learn to read better. It’s similar to improving your writing. Get feedback, record yourself at home and listen back. Read slowly and learn to pause at important or humorous moments.
Please tell us more about you your projects and anything else you’d like us to know.
I’m a hoarder of projects. They fill up my brain until I can no longer walk through it. I’ve actually had to scale back at doing all the things I usually do, or volunteering to read other people or guest editing. I feel bad, but I’m in the middle of writing a novel and I don’t want distractions or feel that I’m subliminally avoiding the work I need to do.