If you, like me, start your day by checking Twitter, then you, like me, might have found yourself at Directors Park in downtown Portland on Tuesday, listening to author Daniel H. Wilson in a shiny red chair reading from his first novel, Robopocalypse.
The tweet came from @beWordstock. The story involved robots, a frozen yogurt store and plenty of gore. It’s scheduled to become a movie from director Steven Spielberg. Occasional sirens and shrieks from nearby kids prevented me from following all the details, but I picked up that it was set in the future — or at least a version of the future where homicidal robots pick up dessert and then attempt to destroy human employees. Wilson sat in the red chair and read.
At Directors Park, the chair certainly got some looks. When I say it’s a red chair, I mean shiny-apple-fire-engine red, not muted-designer red. It’s an attention grabber.
The event was a pop-up reading. And the red chair? That, apparently, was the point of the whole thing.
“The red chair has been the Wordstock mascot since day one,” says Chelsea Bauch from W+K 12, Wieden+Kennedy’s experimental school which is made up of non-advertising creative professionals who assist local organizations with promotion. This year they’re spreading the word about Wordstock’s big red chair readings in advance of the annual literary festival which kicks off this weekend at the Oregon Convention Center.
“At this point, the Wordstock chair has become such a recognizable icon of the festival that we thought it would be fun to take the chair out to the streets to help capture attention.”
And, according to Bauch, the pop-up reading I attended is another way for festival organizers to get the word out to the public.
“We thought pop-up readings would be a charmingly disruptive way to reach people who might not otherwise know about or attend the event and offer a little teaser of what to expect at the festival itself.”
She goes on to say, however, that Wordstock is not exactly what some people might imagine when they think of a book festival. “We think it’s easy for people to assume that a literary festival is just going to be a bunch of book-filled folding tables and readings, but Wordstock is more like sensory overload for book lovers because it includes such a range of interactive activities and events. We’ve been describing it as a ‘weeklong, book-fueled bender’ throughout our campaign messaging because we think that captures the vibe of the festival.”
At Directors Park, as the pop-up reading came to an end, Daniel H. Wilson closed his book, smiled at the applause and wandered away. The microphone was unplugged; the table with brochures folded and carried off. My last view was the sight of the red chair lifted high and moving away, glowing in the sunshine, headed for its next reading.