Sunday, December 27, 2015

Read, Talk, Dance, Repeat

(H.I.P. Lit principals reflect on the state of the novel in a relatively subdued moment)
Date: December 17, 2015
Authors: Adam Wilson, Amanda Petrusich, Tim Kreider,
Venue:  Hideaway Lounge, Be Electric Studio, Bushwick
Free Drinks: yes
Q & A – no
Unemployment check # -- benefits long gone

 I went to a reading in Bushwick last week and a party broke out. Or was it a party at which novelist Adam Wilson, music writer Amanda Petrusich and humorist Tim Kreider read their work?
If it was a party, it was a good one. Most of 30 or so people there knew each other, but even people like me, who on the face of it don’t have a ton in common with these Bushwickers, were made to feel welcome. Full disclosure: I don’t even live in Brooklyn.

Novelist and Wyckoff Star coffee shop manager Paul Rome curated the event. The writers are all friends of his and he introduced them by reading passages from their work. I talked with Paul after the reading and we agreed that the MC at a reading shouldn’t read their own writing. If you want to promote your own work, start a magazine, but it looks shoddy at a reading.
The reading was sponsored by H.I.P. Lit, which is Erin Harris, Brittney Inman Canty and Kim Perel. Erin and Kim are literary agents and Brittney is also a publishing industry veteran.

As is the case when any three readers or writers come together, there is no denying that H.I.P. Lit has a strong theoretical base. I was able to track the influence of Derrida, Barthes, Bloom, the nouveau roman, the new criticism, the new journalism and Cyndi Lauper (“Young Professional Women Just Want to Have Fun”) in the presentation of their event last Thursday in the Hideaway Lounge, a small room in an upstairs corner of the cavernous Be Electric video production studio.
Erin stated this last theme, fun, before handing the event over to Paul. “It always seemed strange that when other readings end, the people just stand up and leave without talking to each other,” she said. Indeed, part of the H.I.P. Lit manifesto reads “We’re making Lit Parties fun again because reading and dancing are not mutually exclusive.”

The first person I talked with was Tony, Brittney’s husband. He said he wanted to write children’s’ books. I think he struck up a conversation with me cause I was sitting there looking, in the poet Frank O’Hara’s phrase “as ill at ease as seafood.”  In truth, I’d had groupie-like conversations with Amanda and Adam at previous readings, but I hadn’t been out to Bushwick for ages.
Later on, one of the H.I.P. principals said Tony had done all the carpentry work on the Hideway Lounge. She said the wood that he hammered together to give the space its hunting lodge look was all collected on the neighborhood’s streets. My conclusion: the H.I.P. Lit reading series is so good it features not only superb writers, but also locally scavenged fixtures. Match that, McNally Jackson.

To introduce the first reader, Amanda Petrusich, Paul read a passage from her book “Do Not Sell At Any Price.” If a worshipful reader like me had to blurb Amanda’s book, he might say it is about her journey into the world of ’78 record collectors. But the depth and range of the topics it tackles goes way beyond that. Suffice it to say that it belongs on your bookshelf next to classics like “Mystery Train.” And even that book’s iconic author, Greil Marcus, never pursued a story by going skin diving in a frozen Wisconsin river as Amanda did.
At the Hideaway, Amanda read her essay from the about “The River,” Bruce Springsteen’s fifth album. The fact that the “Boss” still has some relevance to Bushwick writers and readers speaks for itself, I suppose. As a performer and an interpreter of early 60s AM radio, he’s great. And there’s no doubt that as Amanda describes him, he is “the chocolate lab” of the crop of new Dylans. Probably it is best to leave my Bruce Springsteen issues, my ambivalence, for another place, but my point here is Amanda killed.

Next up was Tim Kreider, who wore a suit and managed the difficult reading feat of punctuating his reading by sipping whisky and making it seem un-stagey. He gave the audience, seated not in a grid, but in chairs and sofas around the small room, the choice of hearing an unfinished piece or something he was more confident was good.
We chose the new piece and Tim drew a lot of laughs with his story about a professor who struggles to balance his lechery with his professional duties as a teacher at a womens’ college. One line of his was “I believe you should have as much sex as possible while you’re alive.” As funny as his reading was, it also talked about the more serious topic of how someone can be a nice guy and a prick at the same time.

Adam Wilson continued the trend of reading new work as he read a passage from an upcoming novel, which he said he’d been writing for four years. Once again, the Hideaway crowd was in stiches as he read what he described as a prequel to his characters’ divorce story. In what was, in a way, a nod to the intimacy of the H.I.P. Lit event, Adam said he’d named his rapper character, Web MD, after Amanda’s husband’s workplace.
After the reading, I heard there were plans to play some Bruce Springsteen. I left, considerately, before the dancing broke out. Whether they celebrated ’57 Chevys and Madam Marie or Hotline Bling, novelists or Pitchfork’s finest, H.I.P. Lit made a convert out of me. I want to be their Harry Dean Stanton.

Read, Talk, Dance, Repeat

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sam-Sam Takes Literary New York By Storm

Date: February 14, 2013
Author: Jon-Jon Guillian
Venue: Idlewild Books
Neighborhood: Chelsea
Free Drinks -- no
Q & A -- yes
Book signed -- no
UE Check Number -- 1245673

“And here’s this super cool, tattooed, 3 percent body fat guy who wants to be your friend and talk about books” – NY Times – profile of literary sensation Jon-Jon Goulian

Wylie said he’d give me one more chance. I don’t want the shots. The skirts aren’t so bad, I just hope no one from my cell in the French Resistance sees me in this get-up. There’s no point in going on, in going on to the tattoo shop. Yet I must, I must go on to the tattoo shop.

Super-cool, me, Sam Beckett, sorry, Sam-Sam, well, New York City is the place where, no, no, the Lou Reed line Wylie told me to use is “I wish I was handsome and straight.” Is that from “Walk on the Wild Side” or did I pick it up when I was wearing trousers, maybe, at the Durr mantelpiece in Dresden when Sam-Sam was so much older, I’m younger than that now. Wylie said to only use that one on geezers. Also told me my Geezer Ingenue schtick would be too subtle, go with Sam-Sam.

Lady Gaga still hasn’t friended me. Good picture of Lila kissing me in the Times. Note to self: more kisses received when you actually buy the author’s book at readings. Goren Whine, still chilly. Was it the joke about his skinny tie? All these publications with Paris or New York in the title, no wonder Sam-Sam gets muddled. Or maybe it was the E. If this plan of Wylie’s to finally get me over the top works, my next project is going to be making some drone-y, repetitive music to go with that E stuff.

Went to the Sunday night fiction series at KGB. Wylie says that Sunday nights there, for Sam-Sam, between the end of the reading and the start of Chris Jacobsen’s movie series is like the era between the invention of the pill and the onset of Aids for the straights. Whatever that means. Do know there were only three New Yorker writers there so all that verbal diarrhea and spasmodic dancing in the corner under the pictures of the Ukrainian nationalists was wasted. Wylie says you have to have at least five for a dickwad or some other Yiddish word that means, more or less, quorum.

Bit where somebody asks me what I’ve been up to and I use the hand signals Wylie showed me, up and down motion for masturbation, which is apparently endlessly fascinating to these Yanks, and the pen in the hand motion that describes all the writing Joyce has been doing for me. Trouble is, when I do the pen in hand motion, am always handed the check.

Wylie keeps pushing me to use steroids, to take the shots, to tackle my percentage of body fat problem. Says it’s OK, because the readers are all on the stuff, too. I dunno. Maybe this Sam-Sam routine is my last shot. I’m down with the skirts and heels, even these annoying sunglasses that make me look like a matron from Boca Raton, but Sam - Sam draws the line at these shots in the ass .Wylie says all the other writers who started out with the name Samuel used them to break through. Ask Lipsyte when he friends me back. When I was just Sam Beckett, I hung out with Lance Armstrong, you know when the Tour de France meant just a bike race, not our underground railway stations to outrun the Gestapo. Lance - Lance, sorry, Armstrong told me he wished he hadn’t used the stuff, gave him a big boil on the butt. Does Lady Gaga use? Did Sam - Sam Johnson?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nutcracker Yes, Sodomy No !

Date: February 9, 2010
Author: Tony Bentley
Venue: KGB bar
Neighborhood: East Village
Free Drinks -- no
Q & A -- yes
Book signed -- no
UE Check Number -- 1245673

On my way to Toni Bentley's reading at KGB , I stopped at the McNally Jackson bookstore to buy a book of hers for my daughter's sixteenth birthday. Nicole, my daughter, is a ballet dancer.
I was looking for Bentley's first book, "Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal." It is an account of Bentley's time as a dancer with the New York City Ballet. I told the clerk I needed a copy of "Winter Season" for my daughter's sixteenth birthday. He looked it up and then said, they didn't have it, but perhaps I'd like to substitute another book of Bentley's called "The Surrender." The subtitle of "The Surrender" is "A Erotic Memoir," but maybe that didn't come up on the clerk's screen. What I knew, but that he presumably didn't, was that "The Surrender" is a book-length paean to the pleasures of anal sex for women.

I did an impromptu routine at the bookstore's counter for the two employees and a few customers behind me in the cash register line on the inappropriateness of buying a book about the pleasures of anal sex for my daughter on her sixteenth birthday.

Then I went to KGB. When Bentley finished reading from a collection of her more recent work, I told her the story. She laughed and said it might not be too long before my daughter might be interested in "The Surrender" as well as "Winter Season." Maybe so, but the less I know about that, the better. I found a copy of "Winter Season" for Nicole's birthday present at another independent bookstore.