A few weeks ago, I posted an entry about MarkReads.net. Just this week, he had a tour stop in Syracuse which I and a few of my friends were able to attend. Very few YA-oriented literary events usually occur in Central New York, so I was especially excited to learn he was coming to Syracuse. My two friends and I hit the highway and made the hour-long trek down to LeMoyne College. Despite my dislike of highway driving and the slightly embarrassing difficulty we had navigating LeMoyne’s small campus, the drive was worth it.
Mark Oshiro started out the evening with a lecture.* His topic was online reading communities. He placed a strong emphasis on the idea of creating a space of inclusion and personal connection when running an online community – whether a blog, a forum, or something completely different. I think it would be interesting to compare his brand of literary criticism – which places equal emphasis on the emotional and intellectual experience of reading – with more traditional, scholarly literary criticism. While it makes sense that literary criticism functions well when everyone has the same terms and phrases to describe a piece, I’m very intrigued by the idea of more informal, personalized literary criticism emerging through the Internet. Book blogs, forums, and review sites like GoodReads certainly make a greater variety of literary criticism accessible. I do realize though that online literary discussion has its limitations as well – not everyone has regular Internet access.
Although I enjoyed the lecture Mark gave and found it immensely helpful both as a blogger and aspiring YA librarian, my favorite part of the evening came afterwards. He delivered a dramatic reading of one of the most ridiculous fanfictions I’ve ever read. The story is called “Gurren Jesus,” and though I’ve never seen the anime it was based on, it was no less amusing. Jesus and an anime character team up to ride motorcycles and try to assassinate Hitler, who is dressed up as Chester Cheetah. Before I’d finished laughing over that story, he went into a real-life annecdote that involved drunken Tennessean nerds playing gladiator with tree trunks. It made me wish I was better at actually telling stories rather than writing them.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet. It gives me a way of connecting with far more people than I ever would in person, and helps me gravitate towards people with similar interests. But this event was a good reminder of how enjoyable it is to connect with other readers face-to-face. It’s a great feeling to be laughing with a room full of people who appreciate the same kinds of jokes, read the same kinds of books, and who probably spend the same amount of time on the Internet as I do. I came away from the event energized by a renewed sense of my love for both online and in-person communities of readers.
*Maybe “lecture” gives the wrong impression – his talk was far more entertaining than the word lecture usually connotes.