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1. Justin Taylor, novelist, poet, and short story writer; Lexi, who Randy insisted I call a “childhood friend”; Randy Rosenthal, mischievously grinning editor of The Coffin Factory; Laura Isaacman, editor of The Coffin Factory. 2. The Coffin Factory’s editorial assistants: Leah Clancey, Darcey Glasser, and Sophia Anzaroot. They took a break from selling magazines to pose.
I was back at Housing Works Bookstore Café after successfully appealing to the judge at Housing Works Superior Court, who overturned my persona non grata status. We don’t need to go over the details; Joyce Carol Oates has received my written apology. When I saw her name on the cover of the third issue of The Coffin Factory, which Housing Works helped launch last night, I was afraid social decency would require me to be absent. Fortunately, Oates stayed in Princeton, and I was able to enjoy readings from Coffin Factory contributors Nicole Treska, Sam Allingham, Chinelo Okparanta, Ali Hosseini, and Justin Taylor.
1. Nicole Treska reads about the beautiful art of chicken murder. 2. Sam Allingham, describing love and architecture in Philadelphia.
After introductions by editor Randy Rosenthal, Nicole Treska began the reading with a selection from her story “Chicken.” Treska was this issue’s Market Fresh Selection, which showcases a new and unagented writer. Her story, set at a harvest festival, describes a man cutting and cleaning a chicken until the “bloody, smelly end.” Treska’s prose is stark and lapidary, like the butcher’s work.
Sam Allingham followed with his story, “The Way Love Sinks.” Allingham’s narrator addresses a former lover as he walks through the streets of Philadelphia, thinking about how love can occupy different buildings. He describes how they walked by the estates on Rittenhouse Square and “watched love settle in their porthole windows like melted butter.” Tender, perceptive, and acute, Allingham’s story creates a poignant picture of the way lovers view a city.
1. Ali Hosseini reading about the worst vacation ever.
Next, Chinelo Okparanta read from her story “Shelter.” Okparanta captures the pain and entrapment of a girl living with an abusive father. When her mother receives a social worker’s business card, the narrator imagines it “sinking lower and lower into Mama’s purse,” until it is finally “dog-eared, wrinkled, and forgotten.” Ali Hosseini read next. His story, “A Day of Solitude,” describes a married couple whose problems can’t stay hidden as they vacation in South America. While walking through the old city, the man imagines that he hears the “Conquistadores’ horses echoing on the stones,” and his wife chastises him: “Do you always have to imagine the strangest things?”
1. Justin Taylor, slightly blurry, switching from poetry to prose. 2. Colleen Mills, writer; Chinelo Okparanta, writer and Coffin Factory contributor, rockin’ houndstooth.
The evening ended with perennial Housing Worker, Justin Taylor. Taylor read “Last Memory,” his third contribution to The Coffin Factory. The poem is from a collaboration between Taylor and photographer Bill Hayward titled Notes on the Inconsolable, an erasure of W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants. Taylor’s poem ends with a haunting image of the dead: “And so they are / Ever returning to us, The dead from the ice / A few polished bones.” In true Sebald style, the poem is punctuated with photographs by Hayward which complement and complicate the text. Taylor concluded with a section of an unpublished story, “The Happy Valley,” about a woman meeting her father in Hong Kong, who reflects that “her relationship had narrowed to her anger at him.”
After Taylor finished, Rosenthal recommended that everyone stick around and drink, which is what they did. I’m never surprised by the turnout at Housing Works or the crowd that The Coffin Factory draws, but I’m always happily surprised by the consistent quality of writing that this new magazine publishes. Buy a copy and see for yourself.
–Sam Gold [text] is the psuedonym of Irwin Eidelstein, M.D., board certified urologist and amateur fly-fisherman.
–Elina Mishuris [images] is the author of Elina Mishuris, mas o menos. Occasionally she lives in Brooklyn.