‘Lit Crawl: L.A.’ lifts words from the page

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Author: Henry Dickmeyer

Tucked away in the Antaeus Company Library in the North Hollywood (NoHo) Arts District, Los Angeles’s bundled-up literati listened to the theater company’s dramatic reading of “The Legend Sleepy Hollow” in a room littered with texts by Shakespeare and Homer. Two blocks down the road, a member of The Newer York Press took over the Ha Ha Cafe patio with a Mad Lib based on the first paragraph of “Lolita.” Meanwhile, adult shop Romantix hosted an intimate reading by Cultural Weekly’s resident erotica poets and novelists.

If these nuanced showcases appeal to any literary enthusiasts out there, there is more where that came from.

Eateries and studios along NoHo’s Lankershim Boulevard opened their doors on Wednesday to the second annual “Lit Crawl L.A.: NoHo,” a free evening that offered a taste of 34 different local literary organizations. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., 30 venues hosted hundreds of eager book-lovers and budding poets, turning the NoHo strip into the hottest writer’s “block” in town.

This year’s Lit Crawl was divided into three 45-minute chunks of time, or “rounds.” The events of each round were hosted by neighboring venues off the main drag, allowing the crowd to mob from one location to the next. The literary variety was rivaled only by that of the venues, which included the XMA martial arts studio, the back corner of the dimly-lit Federal Bar, the jam-packed Vicious Dogs hot dog joint and the classic NoHo Arts Center stage.

Lit Crawl certainly served its mission of creating “literary mayhem.” Each round featured nearly a dozen different performances, so crawlers could sit for the duration of each organization’s presentation or move onto the next venue. The free-flowing atmosphere seemed encouraged by organizers; however, constant motion didn’t allow enough time to fully appreciate each organization’s unique literary contributions. The sheer exposure to the talented performances by L.A.’s literary giants was occasionally overwhelming.

Two groups, Write Club and Literary Death Match, teamed up to deliver debate-style word wizardry at XMA. Writers threw verbal punches at their opponents and tried to sway the audience to their side through creative interpretation of the prompt. “Good Cop versus Bad Cop” and “Hairy Ape versus Naked Ape” were two especially entertaining debates.

Meanwhile, members of L.A.-based initiative, The Black Man of Happiness Project, took over the back of the tightly-packed Bob’s Espresso Bar. Writers delivered powerful messages and anguishing tales through poetry, monologues and essays—complete with a blues accompaniment—to answer the question: “What is a happy black man?”

Hollywood writers and actors joined in on the fun as well at the Posch boutique. “Twin Peaks” and “Thirtysomething” writer Richard Kramer, actress Annabelle Gurwitch and actor Stephen Toblowsky headlined this performance. Toblowsky ultimately stole the show with his wild tale of a baby white rhinoceros on the loose at the London Zoo.

While verbal chaos ensued indoors, two L.A. County Library book trucks (yes, like a food truck for books) and one library store followed the crowds on the streets. The book trucks, or “bookmobiles,” posted up in the first- and second-round venues, allowing attendees to check out books or sign up for a library card. On the sidewalk outside Daphne’s Greek Restaurant—the penultimate venue—the library truck sold literary trinkets and book-lover paraphernalia, with proceeds going toward the L.A. County Library.

Students looking for their own “novel” experience may be able to get a taste of Lit Crawl in their hometowns as well: Starting with San Francisco’s “Litquake” festival in 2004, festival organizers have expanded the idea of a literature celebration into an international movement. Similar shows are now held in Iowa City, Iowa; New York City; London; Seattle; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; and, as of this year, Miami and Helsinki.

Lit Crawl: L.A. NoHo is held annually during the month of October. Visit www.litcrawl.org for upcoming shows in each of its cities.

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