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Sprawl #5: A Cooler Take on the French Salon

by Kimberly Lawson

November 20, 2015

On his last book tour, Louisville-based author Patrick Wensick tried to play a drinking game with audiences to try to make readings a little more interesting. After all, he says, “a book reading is the least sexy form of entertainment that you could try to encourage people to come to.”

It didn’t work out the way he’d planned though. “I usually ended up being the only one drunk,” he confessed.

On Sunday afternoon, Wensick and fellow Curbside Splendor Publishing author Dave Reidy will be in town to read from their latest novels at Sprawl # 5, happening at Snug Harbor. Local poet Connor Mcgaha will also be showcasing Patrick Wensicksome of his works. Although there won’t be a drinking game, the bar will be open, and solo local performers Dylan Gilbert (of Hectorina) and Zodiac Lovers (Casey Malone) will provide tunes. It’ll be the coolest literary event you’ll attend this month.

Amy Bagwell, one of the organizers, admits a traditional book reading can be a little dry. That’s part of the reason why she and local author Jeff Jackson co-founded Sprawl. “We all know that literary readings can be completely narcotic, and they shouldn’t be because the words, if they’re good words, can be really exciting and bizarre. So we want to bring readings into a context in which they can feel as cool and exciting as they deserve.”

Wensick will read from his fifth book, Fake Fruit Factory, which came out in September. It’s a dark comedic story of a small town in Ohio that’s fallen on hard times, its citizens struggling to come together to find a way to dig themselves out of bankruptcy. In the meantime, a NASA satellite is crashing down from space, aimed directly for their town.

Wensick says the idea for the novel came from two places. The foundation was inspired by his own farming community hometown, Deshler, Ohio. When he was growing up, it was small but self-sufficient, but that’s since changed.

“When I come back now to visit my parents, it’s fallen on hard times; jobs are gone, drugs, houses for sale everywhere—that got under my skin. I wanted to write a book about that,” Wensick says.

Around the time he decided to pursue that idea, he heard about a satellite crashing in Australia, which offered the twist he was looking for. “It crash landed in some small town, and they sent the U.S. government a bill for littering, and I thought that was hilarious.”

Dave ReidyReidy, on the other hand, brings a poignant work in The Voiceover Artist that focuses on communication. The protagonist, Simon Davies, suffers from a stutter and ultimately goes silent for 18 years after an incident with his father. When he regains control of his voice, he works to establish a relationship with his younger brother Connor and make his dream of becoming a voiceover artist come true.

The power of voice is a big theme throughout Reidy’s second book, which was released earlier this month. Outside of the story line, another way he experiments with this channel is by including 10 different points of view in the work. “Simon’s story is actually told by multiple characters in the hopes of creating a Simon that’s more dimensional than if we only had his perspective,” Reidy explains.

The novel grew out of an interest in understanding communication difficulties and sibling relationships. Reidy also says he wanted to give literary treatment to subjects that don’t usually get it, like radio and improv comedy.

Although their subject matters are completely different, both Reidy and Wensick recognize they’re asking a lot from folks to come out and listen to them read aloud from their novels.

“I’m going to stand up and read from a book I wrote for 10 minutes,” Wensick says. “It sounds really preposterous when you try to explain it to people.”

That’s why an event like Sprawl, which intersperses the readings with music, is great for the literary community.

Think of it as a modern-day salon from 17th century France where people gather to be entertained and educated—except with books for sale. 

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Tags: NASA, Dave Reidy, salon, Patrick Wensick, readings, Hectorina, Curbside Splendor, The Voiceover Artist, Fake Fruit Factory

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