My Dinner with Geoffrey (Chaucer)

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It’s fun to read aloud and real men do read poetry. No leotard required. Reading Lord Byron aloud always worked for me. Wink wink nudge nudge.

Some books demand to be read aloud and I’m not just talking about children’s books. (Though the whole family is working through Robb White's The Lion’s Paw now.) One of my favorite novelists was the late [image-1] Jason and Medeia was meant to be read aloud.  It's just not the same otherwise.

Maybe you're afraid of how totally uncool it would be for someone to walk in on you when you're ... you know ... reading aloud.

Get over it. I've got an idea for you.

Get this new translation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (Modern Library, $36). Don’t be selfish. Share it with friends or loved ones. Read it out loud.

In fact, not to get too effete on you, but think about this: A Canterbury Tales dinner party. Seriously. A book of verse, a jug of wine. Have a fine medieval meal, but use utensils and better hygiene. (It's OK to use "wench" and "knave" for the course of the dinner.) Afterward, get comfortable. You, Your Beloved and the Other Couples take turns reading. Play a loop of  "A Whiter Shade of Pale" as background music. You'll thank me.

The language of The Canterbury Tales is magnificent. It has to be in order to have survived six centuries. In this new translation by poet Burton Raffel, the humor, the bawdiness, the joy are all luminescent.

No, you won’t finish it in your post-dinner reading party, but you'll have a good start. Finishing it’ll be your homework.

Few things are more enjoyable than reading aloud together. Trust me on this.

INTO THE MYSTIC: Writer Cheryl Simone will discuss and sign her new book, Midnights with the Mystic at Inkwood Books, 216 S. Armenia Ave., Tampa, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22. Simone found material success but spiritual failure, but then discovered a mystic and yogi who change her life. Her memoir carries the Deepak Chopra seal of approval.

MYSTERY SPEAKER: Novelist and television writer-producer Stephen Cannell will discuss his new novel On the Grind and other things at January’s Four Seasons luncheon at the University Club at the Tampa Civic Center at noon on Jan. 29. Cannell was behind “The Rockford Files,” “Silk Stalkings” and “Wiseguy,” among many other television programs.  His visit is co-sponsored by Inkwood Books and the Friends of the Library. The luncheon is open to the masses, but it costs $25 reservations are required. Call the Friends of the Library at 813-273-3616. Inkwood will cater book sales and arrange for signed copies for those who cannot attend. Inkwood’s number is 813-253-2638.

DORSEY ON THE WAY: Tim Dorsey’s hyperactive new novel, Nuclear Jellyfish, hits stores at the end of the month. He’ll be the featured author in February’s Palm Reader column in the print edition of Creative Loafing. But between now and then, he’ll do a signing at Inkwood at 7p.m. on Jan. 29. Amuse him. Show up in a mask and flippers.

William McKeen is chairman of the University of Florida’s Department of Journalism and author of several books, including the Hunter S. Thompson biography Outlaw Journalist.

Seems the older we get, the more we fuck up. We stop doing the stuff that got us here.

For one thing, we stop asking questions because we fear people will think we’re stupid or that we will come off as uncool. But the result is that we grow dumber because by not asking questions, we’ve atrophied as learners.

Same goes with reading. Remember when you were a kid and you used to read at the table after dinner each night? OK, so maybe you didn’t do that. My son Jack, a well-read boy of 6, entertains us with a book a night aloud.

Once a year, we go off to a remote cabin in a state park, freed from the bonds of television and video games. All of us – husband, wife, four small spawn – amuse ourselves with murmuring radio and reading aloud. We’ve done a couple of Harry Potter books that way and those sorts of memories will never fade.

But in your everyday life – do you ever read aloud? Are you worried about that “uncool” stuff? You’ve got to get over that. The best part about aging is no longer giving a shit about trying to be cool.

I used to keep English Romantic Poets by Marius Bewley (Modern Library, out of print) in my bedside table. I’d occasionally serenade a guest with one of Wordsworth’s Lucy poems or even Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kissed Me” (I’m such a sentimental swine).

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