I wasn’t sure what to expect when I attended New York’s branch of Naked Girls Reading, a monthly literary event during which there are, yup, naked women reading. The event started in Chicago five years ago, and now has branches in over 20 cities. Most NGR readings feature a theme, such as Science Fiction, Spies, or Smut. Next month’s “Cake vs. Death” theme will pit the two topics against each other, with one eventually crowned the winner. (Previous sparring topics have included Pirates vs. Ninjas and Art vs. Commerce). This night’s theme was “Smorgasbord,” meaning anything goes, with Gal Friday, Creamy Stevens, and Sapphire Jones—all burlesque performers—picking their personal favorites. About 40 people, an even mix of men and women, many on dates, had shelled out the $25 admission fee (it’s $40 for two people). Related: The 10 Best Erotic Novels to Read Now The four readers entered the bare bones Under St. Marks theater stage wearing robes, which they quickly doffed before sitting down and crossing their legs. Then the readings began, courtesy of host Nasty Canasta, a local orange-haired burlesque star who was asked by NGR founders, Michelle L’Amour and Franky Vivid, to head up the New York branch. Over the course of the night, we heard Woody Allen’s standup routine “The Lost Generation,” Lorrie Moore’s short story “How to Become a Writer,” portions of How to Eat Like a Child by Delia Ephron, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and, the most provocative piece, a selection from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Once I got used to the fact that there was a quartet of naked women in front of me, that element actually became less prominent. Nobody was flaunting their birthday suits or preening; it was almost a wholesome kind of nudity. The words took center stage and I found myself focused on what I was hearing far more than what I was seeing. That’s not to say I forgot that the women were nude; when Nasty Canasta closed out the night by reading about “nymphettes” from Lolita , I found it jarring. The nudity combined with her familiarity with the text threw me. Of the choice, Nasty Canasta said, “I’m very conscious that Lolita in particular is a problematic work for many people because of the nature of the story, but I really just wanted to share a piece of writing that I love.” It did what a good reading should—made me both want to read the original and, thanks to her cadence, also imbued the words with personal meaning I may not have noticed myself. (via Naked Reading Events – Naked Girl Readings – Elle)

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