By Cynthia Shannon
There’s a new show in town, and publicists and authors will want to pay extra attention to this. Michael McAllister, a recent Columbia MFA graduate, has returned to the Bay Area and is launching The Barbershop: A Reading Series at his partner’s barbershop in the Castro this May. Readings will be held on the first Saturday of each month at 8 pm at the newly renovated, modern but retro Joe’s Barbershop at 2150 Market Street.
“The location is both comfortable and a little irreverent, and I think people will enjoy it,” says Michael. “Not to mention the fact that there won’t be any espresso machines frothing milk in the middle of your reading.”
A man of many trades—Michael has worked as a bartender, bike messenger, and a research assistant during grad school to author Brad Gooch—the idea for the series came to him via the book club he attends. “Our book club has remained strong after two years because we really need each other,” he explained. “We need to get out of our offices and out of our heads, and sometimes talk shop and laugh and gossip for a while. Writing can be incredibly lonely, and you can go years without feedback on your work.”
Michael’s goal is to bring the same kind of energy he experiences at book club meetings to the series, especially for writers who are looking for alternative reading opportunities on book tours through San Francisco. “I want to provide another place for writers and readers to meet and discuss literature,” he says, and points out how most readings seem to be held at bars, bookstores, and coffee shops. The Barbershop Reading Series is the kind of location that could really stick in one’s memory for being unusual. Though he’d like to set the bar high for the kind of literary fiction and non-fiction he’s seeking, the atmosphere would remain casual and welcoming, with a typical “barbershop feel.”
Michael has authored the blog DogPoet.com for eight years (an eternity in blogger years!), and is about to finish his first book, with the working title, Not Completely Straight: Portrait of a Family. “As a writer finishing my first book, I’m just as alarmed and full of dread as the next guy [about the changes in the publishing industry],” he admits. But he remains sensible, “since it’s in my interest, right now, to concentrate on the quality of the book and not its possible reception, I try not to think too much about its chances in the new market.”
Born in Oklahoma, and raised all over the Midwest, Michael attended the New College of Florida. He’s lived in the Bay Area a total of nine years, not including the two spent at grad school in New York. Some of his favorite places in the city include Café Flore, and pretty much any other establishment in the Castro, since he lives nearby in Corona Heights. But he admits, “I’m more of a homebody.”
Right now Michael is the sole person responsible for the entire series, from setting up chairs to finding the right writers and publicizing the event. Publicists, writers, and volunteers are highly encouraged to contact Michael directly at email@example.com. Notices for upcoming readings will certainly be posted on Monday Muse, and anyone is invited to attend. Michael plans on providing wine for the reading, and his book club has promised cupcakes.
“I’m starting out small,” he admits, “but hopefully small done right. David Foster Wallace, who remains a literary hero to me, once said, “Good writing should help readers to become less alone inside.” That’s the closest thing I have to a mission statement, both with my own writing, and with the Barbershop series.”