If you go
› What: Southern Lit Alliance’s South Bound Lecture with Harrison Scott Key.
› When: 6-7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20; VIP reception at 5 p.m.; general-admission and student seating begins at 5:45 p.m.
› Where: Arts Building, 301 E. 11th St.
› Admission: $25 VIP, $15 general admission, $5 student (must present ID). General-admission and student seating will open at 5:45 p.m.
› Phone: 423-267-1218.
› Email: RReeves@SouthernLitAlliance.org.
› Website: www.southernlitalliance.org.
Judging from his bio, Harrison Scott Key is funny by nature. Nothing staid about this document. It instead provides a clue as to how his mind works, as the following excerpts would indicate.
* His published works: Key's humor and nonfiction have appeared in The Best American Travel Writing, Oxford American, Outside, The New York Times, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Salon, Reader's Digest, Image and Creative Nonfiction, as well as a number of magazines that don't pay you anything at all, not even a little.
* Stage adaptations: His work has been adapted for the stage and performed by Chicago's Neo-Futurists in their show "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" and "Stories on Stage" in Denver, Colo., one of which paid him and one of which didn't, but it was cool, because, like, they are probably poor anyway, and helping the poor is a priority for Key, should he come under scrutiny.
* Other performances: His plays and monologues have been performed at theaters across the South and in New York. The one in New York was "off-off Broadway" and was barely 15 minutes long and, at the time, Key was too poor even to go see it, but he heard it was great and appreciated the reviewer saying it was funny, even though she also said hurtful things about him personally.
* Comedy stints: Key has also performed comedy at venues around the U.S., if you include three or four different cities to be "around the U.S.," which may be a stretch.
* Readings: Key has read his humor and essays and spoken to audiences at the Savannah Book Festival, Ole Miss, Clemson University, Auburn University and elsewhere, including at least one religious organization who were perfectly courteous up until the end.
Key will be in Chattanooga on Friday, May 20, as the final speaker in the first year of the Southern Lit Alliance's South Bound Distinguished Lectures series. He'll speak about "The World's Largest Man: A Memoir," the story of his relationship with his father.
Key was born in Memphis, but grew up in Mississippi, among pious, Bible-reading women and men who either shot things or got women pregnant, he explains in the book notes. At the center of his world was his larger-than-life father — a hunter, a fighter, a football coach, "a man better suited to living in a remote frontier wilderness of the 19th century than contemporary America, with all its progressive ideas and paved roads and lack of armed duels. He was a great man, and he taught me many things: How to fight, how to work, how to cheat, how to pray to Jesus about it, how to kill things with guns and knives and, if necessary, with hammers."
The younger Key, with his love of books and excessive interest in hugging, couldn't have been less like Pop, and when it became clear that he was not able to kill anything very well or otherwise make his father happy, he resolved to become everything his father was not: an actor, a Presbyterian and a doctor of philosophy. But when it was time to settle down and start a family of his own, Key started to view his father in a new light, and realized — for better and for worse — how much of his old man he'd absorbed.
Key holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction and a Ph.D. in playwriting. He teaches writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., where he lives with his wife and three children. Key served as chair of the SCAD liberal arts department from 2011 to 2014, and he currently teaches courses focused on literary humor, satire and rhetoric.
His So Lit presentation will begin at 6 p.m., following a reception for VIP ticketholders at 5 p.m. VIP ticketholders also get "fast-track" superpowers at the book signing that follows Key's reading.