I’m on my way to the Fuel & Fuddle Reading Series. It's a Thursday night ritual, in which MFA students file into a Pittsburgh pub with manuscripts in hand. I opened the season with a reading of my unpublished travel essay, "Vodka Tonic, No Ice: The Seduction of Neocolonialism." Tonight, I plan to take a less active role, listening to my classmates Adriana Ramirez and Sam MacDonald while attempting to sneak artisan chocolate and single-malt Scotch past the waitress.
I'm trying to keep chocolate connoisseurship and literary writing in balance. Last weekend, the combination was a jetsetting delight--I flew to New York, reported on the annual Chocolate Show for Serious Eats, and darted into a conference of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses down the block. Other times, however, I simply scarf chocolate unchecked and ruminate endlessly on single sentences. I’ve been tinkering with the wording of "Vodka Tonic, No Ice" since 1999. Of course, in the lead essay of his new collection, George Saunders writes that "[t]he best stories proceed from a mysterious truth-seeking impulse that narrative has when revised extensively; they are complex and baffling and ambiguous; they tend to make us slower to act, rather than quicker." Wise man, Saunders. He was in Pittsburgh earlier this semester. The October issue of Hot Metal Bridge, the University of Pittsburgh's online lit magazine, includes a video of his reading from The Braindead Megaphone, In Persuasion Nation, and Pastoralia.