1. Joseph Riippi, author of A Cloth House, with Abigail Rose Welhouse, a poet and City College MFA candidate, a water sign, and a book publicist at Scott Manning & Associates. 2. Host and Curator Penina Roth opening up the night, with the elusive Penelope from Unnameable Books on Vanderbilt accidentally caught by my camera.
A gloomy and muggy NYC evening holds no reading junkie back. This month, Franklin Park Reading Series went big, besides the $4 pint specials and fantastic lineup. To celebrate small presses and literary magazines, subscriptions, books, and a radical t-shirt were raffled. Two lucky lit peeps went home with one-year subscriptions to The Paris Review and The Coffin Factory, each of the reading authors’ books found themselves new homes, and the focus of my jealousy: someone now owns a Paris Review t-shirt with the OG logo from the ’60s, printed on what looked like those love 50/50 cotton-poly blend tees. Luckily, all of us got to hear Daniel Long (The Fiddleback), Jac Jemc (My Only Wife), Miles Klee (Ivyland), Robert Lopez (Asunder), and Elissa Schappell (Co-Founder of Tin House and author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls) for free. Party.
1. Daniel Long, who was excited that students from Mitchell Jackson’s class wanted to take a picture with him, who were the most energized photographers other than his parents. 2. Miles Klee being funny and awesome.
When Penina introduced Daniel Long, editor of the “very important” online literary magazine The Fiddleback, several cheers erupted, and maybe a hooting tongue-roll. Long read a story he “mostly wrote himself” about a man who spies on his neighbors. “My neighbor has been declaring war against himself for some days now.” Later, our narrator is revealed to be wheelchair-bound who partly imagines the lives of those around him. Others, though, he knows a lot about. Like this neighbor: “He claims the term Google on several occasions. I am skeptical of him.” Not because he, like, invented the search engine. Instead, it is for something funny and totally plausible: “Give me a google of gin.” Long’s humor was that special blend of confession, abandon, and sarcasm that can make many characters endearing, and Long’s was certainly that.
Jac Jemc’s novel My Only Wife has been making some noise in the indie lit scene, and after hearing her it is well deserved. Jemc’s prose is disarmingly evocative, a la Michael Kimball–punchy declarative sentences dig up the narrator’s memory of his wife, and even in the excerpted space it was unclear if he ever emotionally locates her. Jemc read first from the beginning and then a section from the end, where wifey is taking a class on still life painting. “She liked the aggression of the painter. The thing with still life is that they cannot be still at all … There is a liminality to an animal that has just been killed and not yet eaten.” While Jemc did remind me of Kimball, especially his last novel Us, Jemc’s sentences use the judgment of a first-person narrator in a more exploratory vein than Kimball’s, where the reader is invited to inhabit, more than placed in a habitat. Also, Jemc has a wonderful accent that is hard not to be charmed by, and I hope this was enough icing on this cake for you to buy this book as soon as possible.
1. Elise Anderson, PR person for Pamela Love Jewelry, future blogger at Tall Dark and Wordy, and fellow Cancer, with Nick “Very Much Aries” Goode, who works at a place that makes blank books, like your Moleskine. 2. Robert Lopez: “I touched them for a solid minute.”
After the break, Robert Lopez, the fiction equivalent of a black metal Dio, stepped up to the mic and read two shorts. And killed it. Lopez’s pieces were the same from his UNSAID appearance, and no less massive and hilarious and rending. “I was like everyone else in the diner. We were a congregation of unhealthy people.” I remembered the opening of this piece as the one that spent a good amount of sentences on a waitress’ boobs, and also the one with the most laughs. Though the highlight of his reading was “Family of Man on Isle of Wight,” a story that plays with mishearings, misunderstandings, the failure of definitions, and the grave hilarity that inevitably ensues. “I aim to please and am only too happy, so if you insist let’s consider it a tontine, yes, good … because what’s a definition anyway, I myself am not defined by words and neither are you, but believe me it’s a real word, tontine is, I heard it once on TV.” Lopez requisitely read this story in about two breaths, driving his sentence-story into us so deep someone behind me Goddamn-ed when he finished. Goddamn is right. You should read Robert Lopez.
1. Elissa Schappell, who proved that a writer can totally be animated by shrugging with her manuscript. 2. Erica L., an Aquarius and jewelry maker, with Maxine Speier, fiction writer and Capricorn, who was also one digit away from winning an awesome raffle prize.
Elissa Schappell finished out the night with a story tinged with a nostalgia close to home for everyone: the Awkward Roommate. Our roommate Butter has “a British accent but is from California” and, well, named Butter. “What kind of people name their children after dairy products? I tell her rich people.” Schappell’s humor is not the kind I encounter in most of the fiction I read, but is definitely the kind that I like to see in my friends. So it was a welcome break to hear an easier fun sewn through Schappell’s jokes. I mean, I’ll always laugh at a joke like this: “Why do camels drink? To forget.” And will continue to wince at this: “Everybody forgets who they used to be and becomes a new person. But deep inside, they’re still the same person.” I may be biased, since Butter and the narrator sound like some of my early twenty-something peers, but the simplicity of line and candor should be a goal for all jokes inside of fiction. I leave you with this: “No, mom, I don’t think that really happens at Mexican barber shops.” What does happen at Mexican barber shops?
Schappell started off her reading by saying the series was a “big deal,” not only for her but for the reading and writing hungry. The series just got named one of the best literary nights by Time Out, and you know why if you’ve been. Everyone is stoked to be there. That’s a good feeling. If you haven’t, June’s “Summer Kick Off” is sure to amaze and please: Andrew Cothren, Jennifer Miller, Elizabeth Ellen (!), Patrick Somerville (!), and Diane Williams (!!!) are on the bill. It happens on 6/11. See you there.
–Ryan Chang is from Orange County, CA and lives in Brooklyn. He is staff writer at The Outlet, and his fiction and essays have appeared in Art Faccia and Thought Catalog. He is in the internet here and here.