cover image The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work and Play in the City

The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work and Play in the City

Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti. Faber & Faber, $14 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-86547-945-6

The city in question is Toronto, where Glouberman lives and plies his trades as instructor in improvisation and charades, and artistic impresario. These plainspoken, idiosyncratic essays, transcribed by Heti, a friend and fellow organizer, of their lecture series Trampoline Hall, coalesce cozily around the patient, earnest, well-intentioned voice of the speaker. Doled out is sanguine, youth-oriented advice such as how to make friends in a new city ("It's useful to identify what you like to do"), why going to parties should be fun and constructive, and the importance of placing chairs as close to the stage as possible ("Everyone should know these things"). The platitudes are self-explanatory, but prove so understated as to be frequently hilarious. Examples are observations on manners and teaching an audience to ask good questions ("What I warn people against is feelings of pride"). During the long-winded account of how he formed a neighborhood residents' association to block the opening of noisy bars, Glouberman concludes with a healthy endorsement of compromise%E2%80%94a realization that surprised even himself. Eliminating antagonism is one of the author's pets, as well as learning how to be decisive (like when quitting smoking) and simply accept unhappiness as an ongoing state of striving. As part of his work, he shares many tips on playing charades and easing communication with other games, like play fighting; overall, he dispenses the nondidactic wisdom of an avuncular sage. (July)