Penguin Books guest author: All the World's a Grave, 9/12

My final post as the Penguin Books guest guthor.  "9/11 Toga Party."  It looks even better on the Penguin website: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/blogs/911-toga-party-john-reed


Ok, I resisted writing about September 11th yesterday. But now, it's September 12th. The not so dreaded 9/12. The first thing I want to say about 9/11: Happy Birthday Uncle Norman. My pathetic, crazy uncle died a few years before 9/11. He was only 28—beset by misfortune and abuse his whole life—but at least the poor bastard died before his Holiday was the new D-Day.

So, I've been mulling this idea over with friends of mine—by email and live. And, after their consultations, I'd like to present a new plan for 9/11 in NYC.

Next 9/11, 364 days from now, precisely one year from yesterday …

Toga Party. Citywide.

911 Toga Invite

I extend the invitation to New York, and the world.

Please, forward this invite to anyone you think might make a good guest, and have them show up, where shall we say? Downtown.

It is fitting that so many people have contributed to the dreaming up of the 9/11 Toga Party—and of course especially fitting that they are all New Yorkers. I imagine the festivities will meet, in some circles, an appalled reception—but we are New York. More charming than Romans, and lean enough (unlike those in the middle of the country), and pale enough (unlike them Californians), to wrap ourselves in Togas and look just fine (or, no worse) and make a night of it.

Perhaps not as larky as a Midsummer Night's Dream, but more along the lines of the tragi-comical Winter's Tale, or Cymbeline—it will be an evening of toothy smiles in the darkness, and ice-cubes melted in viscous Gimlets. We will howl at the moon, and kiss in dark elevators, and throw strawberries from rooftops. Togas will drag in gutters, and everyone will be wet with sweat and the sticky juice that oozes from the night.

All The World's A Grave: A New Play by William Shakespeare, is a September release out with Penguin/Plume (my book), and since I am here to speak about it, I will say that, in it, my intention is to capture something dark and hysterical. That laughter of the Tragedy. Shakespeare is at his funniest in the Tragedies, not the Comedies—few would argue otherwise.

Where there is a hole in contemporary literature—we are far too lauding of the Cannon, of "greatness" that is more a convenience of glossy magazines and academic fossils than it is a reality—I have taken aim, and pitched in me pebble. Go celebrate Shakespeare, but at the same time, sit in—protest the atavism of dusty tomes and suffering school children. Go to a bookstore, and pick up a brand new book, and laugh and cry with the living—with an author who is somewhere out there, as fleshy and blinking as you.


     No longer mourn for me when I am dead

     Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell

     Give warning to the world that I am fled

     From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:

     Nay, if you read this line, remember not

     The hand that writ it; for I love you so

     That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot

     If thinking on me then should make you woe.

     O, if, I say, you look upon this verse

     When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

     Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.

     But let your love even with my life decay,

     Lest the wise world should look into your moan

     And mock you with me after I am gone.

          —Shakespeare, Sonnet LXXI


Where do we start? An event page? A bullhorn? Who will lead the charge? There is no void in the spirit of New York; we are overflowing in our souls with vibrant discursions, unlikely necessities, and 9/11 could no more leave a footprint in our natures than a man could leave a footprint in the sand of the ocean shore.

We will strip down and reclad ourselves in a healing sheet—reduce ourselves to our naked bodies and preference of raw cotton, and celebrate a tomorrow surely to come, when we will clothe ourselves again, anew, reborn, as a New Yorker is reborn everyday. We are here, in NYC, to begin fresh. We cannot mourn lost neighborhoods or restaurants; we cannot lament Golden Ages now gone. We know—we who live here know—the city will take away everything you love, but it will always love you.

It will love everyone who steps off an airplane or a boat, wrapped in rags, looking to stay up late, to struggle through the darkness, to see light glimmering on the harbor—to see a new dawn.

So let us all don our togas, and extend our arms, and play the humble host.