By Mikael Awake

Is it self-destructiveness or something worse that compels me to start off a post about Black Balloon's first reading, an evening of facial hair-inspired fiction that (full disclosure) I helped put together and (fuller disclosure) I also read at, by saying that I'm not the biggest fan of literary readings?

In fact, I used to really hate readings. I don't know why; probably went to a bunch of lousy ones in a row while reading too much Rimbaud. But I do remember exactly where I was when I fell back in love with literary readings, when I remembered in a rush their power to alter, ruin me: it was earlier this year, at the AWP conference in DC, listening to Raul Zurita read poems and answer questions through a translator. My throat closed up, as if I'd become so used to bad readings that I was now allergic to good ones.

I felt a similar awestruck esophageal constriction sitting in the audience of Black Balloon's first reading, which took place last Saturday at Salomon Contemporary. Awe, and, I guess, pride, since the reading was the brainbastard of me and my uber-talented friend, artist John Gordon Gauld, whose beard and mustache exhibition, "Tickle Your Fancy," originally commissioned for Bergdorf Goodman and featured on the New Yorker blog, provided a visual counterpoint for the readers, who were charged with teasing out their best stories and riffs on the subject of facial hair.

In attendance were 30 or so friends we managed to coax away from holiday parties. If you weren't among them, you're in luck! You can live vicariously through this photographic cascade. (Photos courtesy of Erick Munari.)