There's a literary scene in San Diego if you know where to look. For the last few years, bibliophiles have been congregating inside the pristine footwear and design shop Gym Standard (2903 El Cajon Blvd.) in North Park. The Non-Standard Lit Reading Series attracts bookish types on the first Sunday of the month throughout the fall and spring, often packing the place and entertaining the crowd with author readings by local and visiting scribes, many who defy genres and push the boundaries of contemporary literature.
“Part of the reason we call it Non-Standard is this series in particular is open to people who are heading in new directions,” says author Mark Wallace, who runs the series with poet Adam Stutz. “Our emphasis is on people who are trying to do new and innovating things.”
Wallace and Stutz have booked folks as well known as Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout alongside up-and-comers like Adam Deutsch and Lynn Xu. They feature fiction authors, but there's a notable emphasis on poets. Stutz says that's because they want to help breathe new life into the often overlooked and misunderstood literary field.
“The problem is that a lot of people's associations with poetry stops at the experience they had with it in high school—that was the thing that was the nail in the coffin for them,” Stutz says. “We want to invite people back in and show them that poetry is thriving. It's alive and being created in multiple ways through multiple mediums and it's a very interesting time to be creating poetry and reading poetry.”
The series often pairs up local authors and poets with out-of-towners. Wallace says that's so the Non-Standard Lit Reading Series can help connect San Diego's scribes with the bigger literary picture.
“We're trying to encourage the local scene of people interested in writing to get involved with the larger national conversation of what literature is,” Wallace says. “Plus, it gives the San Diego scene more exposure to people who aren't from here. We think of ourselves as creating a community conversation as much as we think of the series as an event we're putting on stage. It's about conversations and interactions more than it is about inviting someone to show up, perform and then just walk away.”
Non-Standard Lit Reading Series' fall season kicks off at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, at Gym Standard. This year, Stutz and Wallace are focusing on connecting with Tijuana writers and other Mexican-American authors with a fresh perspective. For the fall season opener, they've booked Marco Antonio Huerta and Román Luján, two poets and translators who'll read from their published works.
Wallace and Stutz hope their lineup this year will start to interest folks who aren't already steeped in the literary scene and perhaps view anything related to poetry as too hoity-toity.
“My biggest concern is that the series doesn't come across as pretentious,” Stutz says. “Hopefully, it comes across as approachable and inviting. It sounds cheesy, but we hope people come and then keep coming and discover something new every time.”
Get in on it: The Narrators is a true-storytelling event and podcast that started in Denver, Colo., and launched locally on Sept. 8. Happening henceforth at 8 p.m. every second Tuesday of the month at Tiger!Tiger! (3025 El Cajon Blvd.) in North Park, The Narrators San Diego is so fresh, you can get in on the ground floor and become a performer by visiting thenarrators.org. Free.
Still at it: Award-winning author and essayist Salman Rushdie will read from his newest novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at the University of San Diego's Institute for Peace and Justice Theater (5998 Alcala Park) in Linda Vista. Rushdie, of course, is the provocateur whose The Satanic Verses novel once earned him a fatwa from the leader of Iran. His new book is decidedly less controversial, but just as juicy. $30.24 includes a copy of the book. warwicks.com
Brave the angst: Grossmont College's Fall Reading and Author Series is worth navigating the travails of campus parking. They've got a Celebration of Banned Books reading scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, the annual Lester Bangs Memorial Reading with Jaan Uhelszki at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, and more. Free. creativewriting-gc.org
Before the sun: The hour of 4 a.m. is interesting because weird and grim stuff tends to happen just before dawn. The terrifying trope is something local literary nonprofit So Say We All is tapping into for their annual VAMP: 4AM event happening from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, at Whistle Stop Bar (2236 Fern St.) in South Park. Organized by CityBeat's Ryan Bradford and Gary Gould, we're told the night will be “darkly fun.” $5 suggested donation. sosayweallonline.com