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Jun 1, 2010

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It’s a Thursday. Gand I put on our coats and walk briskly down Acland Street, St Kilda, to the warm, busy, art-filled Dog’s Bar for the weekly storytelling event ‘Dog’s Tails’. It’s about 7:30 and we order a glass of the Dog’s Shiraz. Curators of the storytelling event, Chris Flynn and Josephine Rowe, are there already, eating Dog’s Bar specials (I can recommend the risotto) with the star authors for the night, who’ll kick off their readings at 8pm.

dog's 3I’ve been to four so far. One night, I was lucky enough to be in the comfortable armchair myself, reading to an engaged, intimate audience. George Dunford followed as the star attraction, matching me with smut and filthy language in his humorous and moving pieces. So far there’s been a great range of writers on the stage. Themes of love, loneliness and death have been common, and the writing styles have ranged from realism to surrealism and the fantastical.

Pictured: George Dunford.

Chris Flynn gives a charmingly long-winded introduction – to the venue, the featured writers, and the two hooks above his head (come along to find out what they’re for). He also mentions that at half time there’ll be a short section of open mic, for the brave. Now, we’ve all had bad experiences listening to open mic sections and wishing we were drunk or dead, but so far, the Dog’s Bar open mic section has taken on its own momentum. Maybe it’s the fact it’s in St Kilda, and we aren’t getting the same sorts of voices. There’s also a strong contingent of female readers (true with the event in general) from all walks of life.

Regular open mic-ers Dale and Wendy are worth coming down for. Dale, a tall, poised and enigmatic brunette, has been keeping us on the edge of our seats by unveiling a story week-by-week, set in Germany (thus far) featuring severe injuries, a 24-hour Ferrari, and a sweet man who is nonetheless the ‘wrong man’ whose name is Jurgen. Wendy has told two tales so far which are appropriated fairy tales set in the Gatwick Hotel, in St Kilda. They are magical, slightly subversive and rather poignant stories based on incidents in her own life.

There are a few other regulars, including a good-looking young man whose drug- and gun-filled tales make me kind-of drift off, but if that’s your thing, you might dig him. And there’s the occassional surprise poem, story or anecdote from attendees who’ve been coming along trying to strike up the nerve. Last time I attended there was a young woman who relayed a ‘cathartic’ tale of Chapel Street. I didn’t think a great deal of the writing, but there were flashes of potential. I did find her interesting because she was writing about a certain world from within that world. I thought about her night at Dog’s Bar as part of her own personal narrative – a way of stepping out and expressing these burning frustrations (and also admitting to a mask she knowingly adapts in day-to-day life). I liked her for that.

But what of the invited readers? I’ll talk about a couple I’ve seen. A couple of weeks ago Chloe Jackson Willmott took us up some mountains (actual, and emotional ones) through story and emails. Sean M Whelan read  few pieces from past and present – including my very favourite, from the Static performance, where a lion with the face of Harvey Keitel comes to eat his heart.

dog's 1Two weeks ago, Andrew McDonald opened with the story of how one of his blog posts went ‘viral’. He told us what that meant for all his online activity, and attention for his book The Greatest Blogger in the World. This is the post, by the way (as if you haven’t already seen it). He also read some of the hilarious emails and comments he received, eg. that he couldn’t be a hipster, because he was Australian; and that he should be thrown down some stairs. (!) Many people commented on how dirty his bathroom was, and he also received some emails from people who thought he was their ‘soulmate’.

Pictured: Andrew McDonald.

Kathy Charles was the feature that night. You may remember that I launched her book Hollywood Ending, which is to be released in August in the US as John Belushi is Dead. Kathy is working on a new novel, inspired by her visit to the Museum of Death in Los Angeles. Kathy described to us her visit to this museum – and about how she is fascinated by death, but still squeamish; how staring at death in her work and interests is a way of facing her biggest fear. She also read an extract from the novel, where a young couple who own a serial killer art gallery deal with a creepy client. I heard members of the audience telling Kathy afterwards how they couldn’t wait to see it in print. I hope it gets picked up, too.

Unfortunately last week I missed Ruby Murray and Nathan Curnow, but here’s the great line-up for the next few weeks:

Jun 3rd Claire Halliday & Joel Deane
Jun 10th Patrick O’Neil & Mischa Merz
Jun 17th Eleanor Jackson & Leah Kaminsky
Jun 24th Kent MacCarter & Sean Condon

dog's 2Keep up to date on who’s reading at Dog’s Bar with the Facebook page.

There was also a recent piece in the Age about the event. Check it out.

Pictured: my turn!