Date: October 20, 2012
Author: Chiara Barzini
Venue: 192 Books
Free Drinks -- yes
Q & A -- yes
Book signed -- no
UE Check Number -- 783542
I started going to a lot of readings after I got fired from my job writing about mergers. Even without the wedgie near-visual that occurred, the Chiara Barzini reading was one of the best.
As usual I got to the bookstore early. I sat down in a back row to the right of the small table where the author would read.
People started to arrive and a guy came in and sat down one seat away from me. I asked him how he came to be interested in the work of the Swiss writer Robert Walser, the author who I thought was the subject of evening's activities. He didn't know who Robert Walser was, but said he thought the Italian writer Chiara Barzini was reading.
When I saw the pile of her books at the reader's table, I realized he was right.
Anyway, I chatted with my better-informed neighbor a bit. He had the pleasant, diffident manner of somebody who was likely to be an interesting conversationalist. Little did I know that we were about to become partners in a slight crime. I guess the courts will sort it out.
He got up to get a glass of wine and asked me if I wanted one and, if so, red or white? I said red. When he returned I saw he had gotten red also. A modest buddy movie could have been starting even if we hadn’t turned out to be co-defendants.
We introduced ourselves and Chris said he'd met Chiara at a party and had impressed her by being familiar with her uncle's book, "The Italians." Pretty good for a guy who'd never heard of Robert Walser.
As the bookstore began to fill up, I noticed it was a better looking crowd than you find at a lot of readings. I mean, yes, the work is the main thing, and maybe it was just because there were a lot of Italians, but just as you wouldn't knock a movie because it was cast with attractive actors and actresses, I have no personal objection, despite what happened later, to being in an audience with a lot of attractive people. I mean, I know I don't add anything to a tableau like this, but I have no objection if the faces I see on the other side of the room during those moments when I'm not looking right at the author are engaging.
But there is looking and there is looking and it is hard to legislate when looking turns sour, or becomes objectionable. All I can say is that my intentions that evening were honorable, and if Chris' weren't, well, I had just met the guy and could hardly have gauged how much of a lecher he was or wasn't, which is a moving target, anyway.
Chiara read a few short, short stories that were spacy, surreal little gems, often quite funny about Roman plumbing and life after Berlusconi among other topics.
During the questions and answers session, someone asked Chiara whether she wrote her stories in English or Italian. She said she wrote them in English, adding that she liked how many words there are in English and the way you can mix high and low language. As an example she said in English there is a word for when your underwear get stuck in a position where they don't belong: wedgie.
It was such a lovely cultural event with wine and attractive spectators that, speaking of mixing high and low language, I almost hesitate to expand on Chiara’s definition of wedgie by saying that a wedgie occurs when your underwear gets stuck in your butt crack.
But beyond the pleasure of hearing Chiara's stories, and mingling with all the attractive people in the audience, there was another sight that Chris and I had been looking at and not looking at for the whole fifteen minutes of Chiara's reading. It served as a kind of an illustration of the high-low capacities of the English language.
The sight that tested my and Chris' forbearance, our sophistication as the worldly gentleman that we no doubt are, was, well, it was certainly a butt crack, though not a wedgie as far as I could tell, and really, a wedgie was about the only thing the woman sitting in front of Chris and I might have been concealing.
She seemed perfectly comfortable, wasn't fidgeting as a wedgie might have caused her to do. So, let the record show, I'm not saying that when Chiara started talking about wedgies, Chris and I had merely to look down to see one. It wasn't that simple. I said so at the deposition.
But the woman sitting in front of us was another one of these attractive people who were overly represented in Chiara's audience. Maybe that's why everybody's always raving about Italy.
In any case, sitting right in front of Chris and me was a woman with brown hair wearing a short, black sweater and low-cut jeans. By low-cut, I mean her jeans revealed a broad section of her lower back region, oh, OK, the top half of her ass, butt crack included.
When Chiara started to read, this woman leaned forward, which only served to increase the already large display of her lower back. Between the shortness of her sweater, and the modern, extremely low cut of her jeans, there was an awfully broad swatch of flesh visible to Chris and me if we did anything other than stare straight ahead or up at the ceiling.
It's not that I stared down at this woman's ass for the whole reading. Neither of us acted like a transfixed teen-age boy. I did look at her now and again. More to ascertain in a spirit of scientific inquiry, don't forget the Italians gave us Fermi and Marconi, if there was really a half of a naked woman's ass, perched on chair in front of me. I felt compelled to look a few times if only to make sure I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing. I had to wonder at the combination of fashion and biology that presented this image to us.
But art really started to imitate life when Chiara started to talk about wedgies while Chris and I, and the young woman who took the seat between us, half way through the reading, she might have been attractive, too, but by then, I was in a state of sensory overload and wouldn't have noticed if Gina Lollabridga had taken that seat.
I concentrated on Chiara's brief, funny, surreal stories. I enjoyed them. Once in a while I'd glance down to see if anything had changed in the display that was framed by the lowest wooden rung and the seat of the lady's chair . The rather glorious expanse of flesh was still there as were the black lace, conventional not thong, underwear she was wearing.
I will not testify that I could see enough of this woman's ass to tell if her underwear were properly deployed or if they were, in fact, improperly positioned, too zealous in their role and too clinging to the nether regions separating the two lovely globes, of which they were guardians, but I hoped not guardians who had ridden up too high, who had crossed the line from merely enclosing to outright pinching, yes, even black lace underwear can give you a wedgie just like drugs and crime can occur in the best of families.
True, fortune had permitted, Chris and me, an extensive view from the back and above, but, alas, not a view that could detect whether a wedgie was, in fact, present. I make no representations on this subject and hope that Chris hasn't either. We are trying to keep our stories straight.
I will go to other readings this week. I won't exactly be watching for wedgies, but if they occur I’ll give thanks for the way we readers and writers of English can profit from words like "wedgie" and "butt crack."
And I look forward to getting to know my new friend, Chris, even if the woman with the short, black sweater settles out of court.
And, yes, the way you say “wedgie” in Italian is "quando le mutande ti entrano dentro al sedere."