Arts and Humanities
3:53 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Novelist Creates Own Drinking Game at Readings

Louisville author Patrick Wensink has discovered one simple strategy to help people pay attention during book tour readings. He’s made a drinking game out of his.

“I’ve always felt like the worst part of a book reading is the book reading,” says Wensink. “I’m as guilty as anybody. I’ve sort of zoned out in the past and haven’t paid attention to every word.”

Wensink hands out a list of six words before he reads an excerpt from his new novel. Every time he reads one of the key words, everyone (author included) takes a sip.

“I did a reading last month in Portland and I finished two and a half beers in, what, ten minutes? Fifteen minutes, maybe, depending on how fast I read? I suffer for my art, I guess,” he says.  

It might be a gimmick, but at least it’s thematically sound. Wensink’s new book, “Broken Piano for President,” is a dark comedy about a loser who tends to black out after a couple of beers.

Wensink’s hero Deshler Dean parks cars for a living. His experimental band, Lothario Speedwagon, is going nowhere fast. Dean’s life sounds like a recipe for failure, but in Wensink’s absurdist world, his problem becomes a strange gift.

It turns out Dean is brilliant when he’s dead-to-the-world drunk. He invents an addictive fast-food burger. His band signs a record deal. It’s the fantasy every hard-partying twenty-something in a dead-end job hopes will come true.

“He’s a mid-twenties guy who just drinks a lot. When I was writing this book, I was a mid- twenties guy who drank a lot,” says Wensink. “As the story progresses, he realizes he’s been doing a lot while blacking out. He’s been more productive drunk than while he’s sober.”

This isn’t the first book tour Wensink has livened up with an unorthodox performance. For his last novel, “Black Hole Blues,” he conducted a trivia contest about his book’s villain.

“I made up a game show called ‘Death to Kenny Rogers,’ where people could win Kenny Rogers prizes by answering stupid questions I made up, that were completely false, about Kenny Rogers and what a horrible human being he is,” says Wensink. “I felt like I had to one-up myself.”

If Wensink’s readings sound more eventful than the average author appearance, it might be due in part to his recent work with Project Improv. Wensink says improv comedy has made him a stronger reader of his own work.

“Once you bomb on stage at an improv comedy show, you have no more fear when you’re up there reading from a book,” he says

Wensink will read from “Broken Piano for President’ at Second Story Books Friday at 6:30 p.m. The event, the author says, is BYOB.

“What could be better for a book about a guy who is more productive when he’s drunk than sober than to watch the author get drunk on stage and get drunk with him while you’re watching?” says Wensink.