Lectures Uncategorized

“What the Deuce!” – On Performing at a Literary Festival

"You would make a lovely corpse." Ouch, that one hurts, doesn't it? There's more where that came from! Last week, I performed at a literary festival teaching people how to curse in a literary way.

2023 is a year of many firsts. Not only did I give my first book lectures, but I had also talked myself into giving a performance at a literary festival. I told the organisers that I had something really cool: a literary survival kit on how to vent your frustration in a calm and literary way. Want to know how it went? And want to get some examples Read on!

One of the very first posts I shared on this blog was the one on how to swear like Shakespeare. I had so much fun writing it that I decided it would also be fun to give a proper workshop about it. I was in touch with a festival, they said it would be great, but then Covid happened – now there’s something to be frustrated about! Years that feel like centuries later, with the virus somewhat gone, festivals are being organised again, and I decided to be brave and ask whether I could do a sort of workshop-lecture thing about cursing the Shakespeare way. They liked it, but decided it was a bit too English-focused, and would it be at all possible to incorporate Dutch literature as well? Of course, I bluffed, having no idea how. I did tell them I needed an office, because it would look professional.

After some time (busy at work, busy celebrating Christmas, busy writing the book lectures) I decided it would be fun to do a sort of literary swearing. I told the organisers that I noticed that the world had gone cruel and everyone was frustrated and dropping the f-bombs every single time something bad happened to them. I told them I hated that, and I wanted to pretend to be a Doctor in Literary Ranting and I could do Swear Therapy. First, I needed input. I took a close look at my books, and set out to find out how writers would vent their frustration, tell someone to go to hell in a beautiful way, or wallow in self-pity. And oh, how angry they all were!

I collected swear words like I collect clothes; I browsed, tried them out, and deleted or selected them. Some writers simply have the gift of venting their anger in the most beautiful and creative ways, and I couldn’t wait to share them with my prospective clients. I decided to frame them, so it all would look really pretty and less angry. However, I failed miserably at fitting all these words into their frames (never, ever, use Word for this), and eventually there was so much anger building up inside me that I had to try out all of the curse words I had just carefully compiled but still felt so frustrated I felt like throwing everything out and calling in sick for the festival – and then I also still had print, cut, put stickers on, and laminate all my perfect swear words. In the end, I managed to finish right before the festival was about to start. I took my 180 framed curse words with me, installed myself at my office, and waited for the customers. And waited. And waited some more.

The festival was at the fifth floor of the building, and that’s where all the famous writers did their lectures and their interviews and their readings. I was on the fourth, and nobody knew I was there. Some people walked past without looking at me, and others asked me for directions. I felt like swearing at them. But eventually some people came over and asked me what I was doing, and I told them I was there to teach them how to curse gracefully. They all smiled and told me they would love that.

So, that’s when I asked them about the things that frustrated them. Oh, how angry they all were! The world was going to end soon, housing prices were insane, they felt sorry for themselves, that one person was so annoying they could stand them anymore, or they just hated everything. They loved venting, and I told them I had a great word, sentence, or rant for them. I told them that they had to repeat these words twice a day, or continuously, and that everything would be better soon. I then gave them their framed curse, and they left looking like a great weight had lifted from their shoulders.

Well, that was fun. I know my silly little performance will not change the world. It won’t solve any real problems, and it isn’t real therapy. But I did notice that there is so much anger in the world, and our fuses are becoming shorter and shorter all the time. We need new ways to deal with our frustrations, and I am glad I played a short part in that, even if it was just for one night, and for a very small amount of people.

What’s your favourite swear word or insult? Do you think we swear too much? Please let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!

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