Don't worry, there aren't any beanbag chairs, and these books of stories don't have any pretty pictures. Lunch Pail Tales: A Story Hour for Grown-ups is exactly what it sounds like: an adult version of a fondly remembered childhood activity. The formula feels familiar—see: kickball leagues, artisan cupcakes—but the setting is not. This is happening at the Vancouver Community Library, even as Multnomah County still insists on scheduling only kiddie-appropriate story times.
Founded in January after a similar program in Seattle, Lunch Pail Tales invites grown men and women to bring sack lunches to a small conference room each Wednesday for an hour's worth of short stories. Storyteller Jericho Knight picks a theme, usually tied to one of those contemporary holidays someone is always making up. On Dec. 5, the stories will rewrite the laws of physics in honor of the upcoming "Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day.â
The peppy Knight is talented voice actor and well-intentioned story curator. For an animal-themed reading in November, Knight collected five discrete stories. Rudyard Kipling's "How the Whale Got His Throat" was the most childish of the bunch, though Knight kept it from getting too saccharine. "Me and the Girls," which author Michael Dorris based on a true story of a man who freed two elephants from the circus and lived with them as fugitives, was a study in the tension of going against the grain. The inspiration for 1960s sitcom Mister Ed, Walter R. Brooks' "Ed Has His Mind Improved" wildly exposes the original talking horse as far baser than his TV counterpart. Knight did a perfectly dopey Ed.
The building itself is another reason to come. While Portland is proud of its musty, Georgian-style Central Library, the new Vancouver Community Library is a glass-on-steel hunk of grace. More interstellar art object than clunky monolith, it was built with a minimalist three-dimensional yellow sign reading simply, "LIBRARY." Its modernity makes listening to Ambrose Bierce stories in a conference room—silent but for hollow ventilatory rumblings and moist chewing sounds—a little anachronistic when you think about it. But you're not really supposed to be thinking about it—you're supposed to be listening.
GO: Lunch Pail Tales is at the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., Klickitat Room, 360-906-5106, fvrl.org. 12:05-12:55 pm first and third Wednesdays of the month. Free.