Kevin Keck has found people willing to perform all sorts of acts. He's been willing to perform some offbeat ones himself, acts so gloriously raunchy they might not be printable even in an alt weekly. One thing he hasn't been able to do, though, is find many bookstores that will let him perform readings from his recent book.
Keck, a Charlotte writer who contributes frequently to Nerve.com, Details and other publications, has been turned down by bookstores up and down the East Coast. It seems the tales from Oedipus Wrecked, Keck's collection of comically candid essays about the sexual id of the adolescent and college-aged heterosexual male, aren't exactly what bookstores want to hear. Even when the most mainstream of magazines, Entertainment Weekly, hailed the book as "The short memoir of an amazingly perverted -- and funny -- young writer."
Here are a couple of the rejection comments that bookstores, independents as well as chains, have given Keck's publisher, Cleis Press:
"Loved the book but thought it was too dirty."
"Loved the book but ... decided it was too graphic to have a reading."
Is it too graphic? You be the judge: Oedipus Wrecked chronicles Keck's revelation that, yes, girls poop; the unfortunate effects of Pert shampoo on a penis; and, in a joyous recounting of a doctor's visit, his embarrassment at being told said body part was a "medical miracle" -- but not in the good sense.
Alsace Young-Walentine, assistant manager at Malaprop's bookshop in Asheville, said her store wanted to carry the book but didn't want a reading. "It just seemed a little too racy," she said.
Keck hoped indie bookstores would be more open. "It's kind of a drag, to say the least," he said.
Expecting a similar response at Park Road Books in Charlotte, neither Keck nor his publisher approached the venerable shop, where authors read just feet from the children's section.
Keck is now working on a novel set in Charlotte, as well as another collection of essays. Will they be as graphic? Not likely. Said Keck: "There's only so many stories you can write in that vein before you get to the point of the ridiculous."