Tucson City Council Regular Session
June 8, 2010
I am here today to introduce the production of a new piece of performance art. The project is called Tucson, the Novel: An Experiment in Literature and Civil Discourse. The project is intended as a statement about art and community, and as a demonstration of the potential for literature as a tool for civic engagement. And it will use as its stage this podium, these meetings, that TV camera and this system of democracy.
Beginning next Tuesday, my project will be to serialize my unpublished novel in progress, three minutes at a time, by reading the entire manuscript here at Call to the Audience.
A guest reader or I will read at every regular council meeting until we reach the final page, or until the book is published. Whichever comes first. Let’s hope for the latter, because the novel is just over one hundred thousand words in length; in 3 minutes I can read 500 words. So reading it in its entirety will take six years, more or less.
This project is literary activism. The story I will tell at this podium each week describes that which is wonderful and that which is awful about this city. How we're doing it well and how we're screwing it up. How the individual is responsible for the world in which she lives. This project is my response to the shame that Arizona has recently brought upon itself through its state-sanctioned racism, and it is a rebuttal to those values. It is a reminder that here we don't live in Arizona; here we live in Tucson.
In its truest sense, the word “publish” means “to make public.” This project, then, is an act of grassroots publishing. It is a direct delivery of the product from its creator to its consumers. It is a call to my audience.
After college I lived in Manhattan for seven years but I came home to Tucson to raise my child. I have worked in Tucson as a cocktail waitress, a truck driver, a bartender, a receptionist, a temp, a salesgirl, a fundraising consultant, a grantmaker, a business owner, a nonprofit executive director, and now as a teacher and writing coach.
This novel is my love letter to Tucson. I hope you enjoy it. See you next week.