Given the rumor, innuendo and subsequent confusion that have all accompanied the run-up to the very real reading series from THE2NDHAND that launches next week, Monday, Nov. 9, at Whistler in Chicago’s Logan Square, it’s hard to pin down exactly when and where the question in its title — “So you think you have nerves of steel?” — was first uttered in conversation between myself and the Chicago-based coeditor C.T. Ballentine, but he locates it in a supposed text message I sent him early this summer. I must surely have deleted it from my sent box, though I do vaguely recall a night out back of my apartment in Birmingham engaged in cooking over smoldering charcoal and not-smoldering beer when the subject of steel nerves came up in a texting back-and-forth having to do with an object of Ballentine’s affections, but little else. By the time I left Birmingham, on July 30 this year, there’s evidence that the title was at least close to being fully formed in Ballentine’s mind, as the 10:29 a.m. entry here makes clear.
Suffice it to say that, finally, the reading series So You Think You Have Nerves of Steel? has arrived, and will feature monthly a writer riffing on the question in the story’s title in a sort of extended collaboration toward, perhaps, a greater whole or sense of completeness. This month’s writer so featured is Chicago playwright and prose scribe Chris Bower, one of the best working in the city today, and joining him with new work will be THE2NDHAND contributors Jill Summers, notable for her shorts (stories, for certain) and audio fiction, among other things, and Amanda Marbais.
Backing and interluding all where appropriate are the trio of Nora Barton on cello, Eliza Bangert on clarinet and Allie Deaver on flute. Billie Howard of Paver assists. There may or may not be an arm-wrestling match pitting one lucky volunteer against a venerable Chicago litmag editor, the press material runs, but I know a smidge more — as it was relayed to me, there will be some Over the Top-style antics toward the end, if the mood is right (you know, lots of smoke coming from random places, folks circled around dramatic lighting over a nice old wooden table just the right size for two full-size adult arms). I believe poet/writer/editor Fred Sasaki may be involved.
It stands to be a good night, and to my mind what makes the series at least conceptually beautiful is the collaborative spirit of the monthly endeavor; of the Chicago series currently in action, I don’t think any attempts to involve writers with each other collaboratively in quite the same way — not over time, in any case. What could Nerves of Steel mean six months from now? A year? It’s attempting to build a story all its own; hope you’ll play a part.
And, of course, it’s free. Details here: www.the2ndhand.com/events/events.html.
Or via our Facebook group.
PS: The next broadsheet, our 33rd, was delayed a bit care of some transcontinental apartment hunting woes (not my own) and other circumstances. We regret to report that it will not feature Al Burian, but we’re excited that Al’s not given up on us entirely and should have something with us next year. Also: we’ve got somebody just as good in mind, of course: Kate Duva. Yeah. Stay tuned.