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January 25, 2013 2 Comments

On Reading Aloud

Two nights, two readings, two launch parties, two great independent bookstores with every seat taken and people standing among stacks and in doorways.

City lights crowd

Some words to describe this: exciting, gratitude-inducing, terrifying.

I’d been given variable advice about reading my work: read for twenty minutes, then take questions and read something else at the end; don’t read for more than five minutes at a stretch, and punctuate it with entertaining banter; read whatever you have to in order to give them a sense of the book; practice, practice, practice.

Of course, I have known for months that my readings would start this Wednesday. And I didn’t take vacation this week, so Monday night, there I was book in hand, flipping back and forth among the stories, the panic rising.

What to read, what to read…?

Worse: entertaining banter? About what? Me? How horrifying…The book? Both?

Actually, I’m not bad a entertaining banter, and I’m a teacher so I can stand in front of groups and speak. Still, it seemed that at the very least, I should know what I would say the moment the reading started, but I didn’t – and that felt very much like flying to a distant and very different country for a vacation, arriving exhausted and stressed, and not having a hotel room for the first night.

City lights LA reading

What to read? I settled on a new bride approach: something old, something new, something blue, or the literary equivalent thereof: the entirety of one short story, one borrowed form story but mostly standard narratives, two patient stories and two doctor stories, young people and old people and in-between people. Reading long enough to engage but not so long as to bore. Off the cuff entertaining banter related to the book and me and medicine and writing and health care and diversity and I’m not even sure what else…

Three lessons learned:

1) all the advice above is good; an amalgam of it is better

2) you can look up or you can read but if you look up often while reading you will occasionally stumble on words

3) the problem with entertaining banter, even when successful, is that it’s hard to recall what one said so at my next reading, I will again arrive in a distant land without a hotel reservation – but thrilled to be there….

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2 Responses to On Reading Aloud

  1. Michael Kirsch, MD January 31, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Most noteworthy is that you confirmed that independent bookstores still exist, albeit as endangered species. Congratulations!

  2. Mark S. Welby February 2, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    I didn’t hear a word you said during the reading — I was totally fascinated with and preoccupied with your boots.

Leave a Reply to Michael Kirsch, MD Click here to cancel reply.

Resources:

New York Times Health: http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/ and http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/

Health in Aging: http://www.healthinaging.org/

Family Caregiver Alliance: http://www.caregiver.org/

Talking to Your Doctor: http://www.nih.gov/clearcommunication/talktoyourdoctor.htm

Kaiser Health News: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/

NYU Literature, Arts and Medicine Database: http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Main?action=new

Physician/student/health professional resources

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