Teleportal Readings in the Austin Chronicle

Everybody’s Talking at You

Austin’s reading series scene is booking good


If print is dead, as has been suggested by the usual boys and girls who cry wolf every time a leaf drops, then there’s a fierce plethora of literary zombies shambling through the Austin nightscape these days. Used to be, you couldn’t walk two yards in this town without tripping over some unemployed bass player; now, the situation with reading series seems intent on reaching similar proportions.

Reading series: Where people take a microphone and read a thing, or – stretching the parameters just a skoshie – tell a thing, spin a tale, relate a narrative that’s so well-spoken it might as well be committed to the pages of a literary anthology or an alt-weekly or some superlative pulp-fiction throwback.

Reading series: You have in your mind’s eye, what, some image of a clutch of geezerly writer manqués stinking up a popcorn-ceilinged community-center rec room, taking turns intoning flaccid prose between changes of their colostomy bags?

Eighty-six that notion, good citizen, and put your hands together for Teleportal Readings. For Five Things. For Utter Reading. For Whiskey Rebellion. For the Encyclopedia Show. For the Awesome! and Great! Reading Show. For the Bat Cave’s Story Department. For local instances of national phenomena Mortified and the Moth. Put your hands together for your friends and neighbors who know that print isn’t only not dead but that it gains greater life than ever when shared within a context of camaraderie and, sometimes, music and, perhaps especially, booze.

A few geezers may well be in attendance, yes, for some of them (as ever) know what’s up, but they stick out like palsied thumbs in these crowds of twentysomething scenesters and postgrad reprobates and younger working-class wordsmiths tangling with their first marriages and mortgages and experiments in flash fiction. These crowds, gathered together, in bars and clubs and theatres and wherever there’s room to wet a whistle and prick up an ear, to hear people read.
Teleportal Readings

Photo by John Anderson

Location: Hotel San José courtyard, 1316 S. Congress
Next event: October, at the Texas Book Festival

“Teleportal is sort of like a monthly Reading Rainbow for adults,” says Jess Sauer, who runs the series under the aegis of Monofonus Press. (See “When Creative Types Combine Powers,” June 13, 2008, for more on Monofonus.) “We usually have two live readers, and we have a lot of literary content from media outlets around the country. And, where the title comes from, we produce a ‘teleportal’ reading – which is where we have an author reading in front of a green screen, and we have video artists mess with it, adding effects and animated text or whatever. We had one author who wanted to be made into a cartoon, so we did that. Last week we went to New York and taped like nine different writers. And, for the audience, people are used to relaxing while watching movies and TV, and I think that aspect of the series makes it a really good experience even for people who bristle at the mention of poetry or find the literary world pretentious.”

Teleportal is held in the courtyard of the Hotel San José, the show’s lively atmosphere enhanced by the gorgeous minimalist architecture – and the full bar – there. The show’s been well-attended from the beginning (January of this year), drawing Eastside artists and citywide literati and SoCo regulars looking for something new to spike their highballs with. “Having gone to graduate school and been included in that whole academic sphere of readings,” says Sauer, “I wanted something that was really not academic and not exclusive-feeling or in-crowdy or in-jokey. It’s real easy to become all niche-y, and we wanted to be something that was a little more generally user-friendly.

“Monofonus’ Morgan Coy and I came up with the idea for the series,” she says. “We wanted it to be multimedia. I think Morgan came up with the green screen idea; I came up with the name Teleportal. And, of course, we also have local, nonteleported readers. But, even there, we try to have interaction – a PowerPoint thing, or a group discussion. And we make sure not to feature writers who, you know, who just blow at reading. Because there are people who are excellent writers but who, for whatever reason, they’re really bad at reading? That’s not what I’m interested in.”