Naked Boys Reading – Again!

by | indielit

Remember in April, when I gushed about Naked Boys Reading at Monster Ronson’s? You don’t remember?
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There was another stint of NBR in summer, and a few days ago, they threw their third Berlin reading party. I went to listen to and see naked guys read ghost stories, an appropriate topic for this time of year, as it’s getting cold and grey and dirty-city-wintery.

Just like the first time, the place was packed with mostly bearded guys, the atmosphere was mellow yet anticipatory I’d say. The hosts, Pansy and Dr. Sharon Husbands, were dressed up as, duh, ghosts. Pansy in white, as you might envision a ghost, while Sharon took the cheeky approach, dressing up like that specter from the past, an Eighties woman on the prowl. If I interpret her get-up correctly, that is.

No costumes for the boys though, if you discount a flutter of words scribbled all over Ezra’s body. Words from teh texts he read, mind you. Apart from that, nakedness and literary ghosts. Either of the classic horror variety of good old Cthulhu lover H.P. Lovecraft, or penned by the readers themselves. We heard of a secret governmental facility whose worst horror was the elusive button eye man, ghostly dreams and encounters in the familiar context of your family’s house, and more. There was also one German offering, a weirdly contorted Boris Vian version of Jonathan Harker’s dream in Dracula’s castle (explicit where Stoker is merely insinuating, but that was the whole point), and a “cocky” take on that American kid classic, “Scary Stories to tell in the dark.” You probably guessed it, instead of The Big Toe it was The Big Dick.

So once again, from the atmospheric to the silly, from the hilarious to the theatrical, the naked boys gave it all, and the curious thing about this whole shtick is still this: You check out their bodies when they come onstage and start reading, but then you’re taken in by the text, the voice, the entire act. The nakedness becomes part of that act, and is not the attraction in itself. Not easy to explain, but a really cool experience.

And you have to give it to any guy who climbs that stage, and stands in that spotlight: The slight shaking of the sheets of paper in their hand give them away. They’re nervous. They’re daring. They’re brave. It takes a man to be a Naked Boy Reading, I’d say.

Oh, and someone somewhere wrote that it was probably a demeaning and desperate event, and that if women/girls were doing it, there would be such an outcry. I disagree with both, and I’d like to compare it to a Burlesque show, in a way. I know, the comparison doesn’t hold all the water, but bear with me for a moment. If you go to a “real” pole dance/stripper bar, the words demeaning and desperate may come to your mind, because some of the women there seem to go through the motions, making money, but not “enjoying themselves” in any way (I’m not saying this is always the case, but I’ve seen it, and it’s imaginable, right?). At a Burlesque show, the women (and men, and everything inbetween) are enjoying themselves to the max, and they’re stripping and putting on acts and doing impressive and artful and raucous things. They’re in control, and they want to do this, and the audience appreciates their dedication and ingenuity, on top of their curves and boobs and asses, or whatever else any one person in the audience might enjoy looking at. Are you following me? So while there may be places and acts and cruisings that have the air of the demeaning and desperate, those Naked Boys are enjoying themselves, are in control, and want to do this. And the audience (apart from a few people in the far back, who kept chatting far too loudly) appreciates their dedication and ingenuity, on top of their, yes, dicks. And I bet they got a wonderfully intoxicating adrenaline rush from daring to be a Naked Boy Reading.

~ Review by Claudia, German Literary Editor and Author of Summer Symphony and Zweiundvierzig.

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