The Barrel of Dolls, Rochester, NY 2/5/16 [Photo:David Kramer]
As Talker was promoting Writers and Book’s Karen VanMeenen’s 16 year run as Rochester’s Uber-Reader-Leader and the evening’s First Friday scavenger hunt kicking off this year’s Rochester Reads program, we fully expected a complimentary copy of The Queen of the Fall.
But like Queen Cleopatra herself to a court eunuch, Ms. VanMeenen prompted me to scavenge myself. Your command is my destiny, said this Marc Antony. And the quest was underway.
The premise was that at 10 First Friday venues a foam apple had been cleverly hidden. Whoever found and returned the forbidden fruit to W&B headquarters by the end of the night received a free copy of The Queen of the Fall, this year’s Rochester Reads selection.
First stop was Lynne Feldman’s studio where we’ve been before.
There, in the Anderson Arts Building, a delightful quartet was playing as we admired Lynn’s collage homages.
Happily, Lynne informed us that the apple had not yet been discovered. Temptingly, she even pointed to its hiding place. But, alas, this Eve said it would not be kosher for me to take the apple. When Lynne wasn’t looking, I tried to hide the fruit in my mouth. But was caught red handed!
From that debacle, we trekked to Axiom. Foiled as a previous prospecting team had already hit red gold!
It was suggested we try across the street. Interestingly across the street is The Barrel of Dolls. Not realizing this fine establishment was also on the scavenger hunt trail, we eagerly sought those apples or cherries. And found them!
Returning to headquarters — empty handed as it were — I was pleasantly surprised that Karen did not object to the Doll photos. As she explained, and unbeknownst to me, The Barrel is referenced in The Queen of the Fall. Hence, its inclusion is altogether fitting and proper.
At headquarters, we had a small problem when I was caught stealing a book. And I had to eat sour grapes when an actual winner claimed her prize. And a juggling fool taunted me with even more apples.
The evening did end on an upbeat note. I wrote and submitted a 36 word short story to The 35 Word Story Contest on a (fictional) trip a (fictional) character once took to a (fictional) Barrel of Dolls. Unless the judges prove incorruptible, I stand a fair chance of winning.
Oh, you are wondering what is Rochester Reads? Here from Karen:
The goal of Rochester Reads is to select a single book each year that will spark discussion and inspire related events across the community. We aim to bring people together to talk about real-world issues and their own experiences, even if the book is categorized as fiction.
This year’s selection, Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses by Rochester native Sonja Livingston, is a collection of personal essays. The book explores coming of age as a woman in the 1980s and ‘90s in America, and connects the author’s own youth and young adulthood to history (think Susan B. Anthony), pop culture (Madonna, Ally McBeal, Land of the Lost), and faith, in a rich tapestry of memory and both individual and communal exploration.