“Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem cling-clanged in the background of 2A’s upstairs lounge on Tuesday night as we gathered around not just one great someone, but four: writers Steve Danziger, John Reed, Myla Goldberg and Joshua Henkin. The greats rolled in with the rest of us for Fiction Addiction, Christine Vine’s monthly reading series in the East Village.
1. “We lived in Brooklyn when people were trying to get out of Brooklyn,” Steve Danziger, bathed in orange light and reading from “Some Other Mountain” in The Coffin Factory. 2. Laura Isaacman, editor of The Coffin Factory, raffling off free issues of her magazine like the fairy godmother that she is.
Steve Danziger swept us into the world of septuagenarian tourism in the Middle East, which the tour guide assures them is “just like Brooklyn.” Reminiscing about previous overseas jaunts, the matriarch narrator professes, “It’s not a breakdown if they don’t hospitalize you.” Write that down. Put it in your pocket. Repeat it at your next opportunity. Also, remember this: “There’s a universal world for toilet. It’s toilet.”
Something else to consider: ”Did you ever see those movies when two retarded people get married and go to a carnival?” Don’t worry—the mother in Danziger’s story is only bringing this up because her husband is acting like, “a mentally retarded newlywed who’s never seen a Ferris wheel.” Oh, the joys of travel.
1. John Reed, who grew up in the East Village, shilling belts on behalf of a high school acquaintance he randomly ran into on his way over: “They make a great Christmas gift.” 2. Writers Helen Rubinstein and CJ Hauser, last photographed for EL at the One Story Ball, which was a ball.
Next up, John Reed exploded my concept of a sonnet with these opening lines:
“The truth is, I only tell 13 lies.
Lie no. 2: I lie in praise of heaven.
Three: this is between just the two of us.
Four: in the silence we share, we are whole.
Yes, I heard you (five), I was listening.”
Before moving onto his novel, Snowball’s Chance, the crowd pleaded for one more sonnet (crowds are always doing this). As he flipped through his remaining poems, Reed inquired about our taste. “Do you want a person on fire at the drug store or—“ “Yes!” we shouted. Fire it was.
1. Myla Goldberg, wearing signage for her 60-foot projection on the building across the street, “Shhh! The taco truck doesn’t know I’m here.” 2. Maureen Baker and George Gaó, who ad libbed a short story, “I was feeling bored and lost in the city, and I needed to jump start my post-college life. Fiction Addiction was my inspiration.”
Luckily, the phoenix rises from fire. As does Myla Goldberg, whose narrator sells ice cream replicas of the town’s deceased child star, their so-called Little Darling, “America’s Princess of Peace.” Before Little Darling was vaulted into fame, “there were names going around: Little White Whitney Houston Wanna-be, That Crazy Girl, Little Miss Incredibly Annoying. I may have come up with a few of them myself.” Little Darling would belt out The Greatest Love of All during the narrator’s ATM transactions, normal enough in Manhattan, though potentially irritating nonetheless. And this wasn’t Manhattan—it was Main Street.
1. Joshua Henkin, considering a career as a basketballer. 2. Emily Strosser, who’s reading Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, Kelly Stout, who’s reading everything by Nora Ephron, and Mark VanHare, who’s reading David Remnick’s profile on Bruce Springsteen in the New Yorker.
Joshua Henkin read a scene from his novel The World Without You, where the matriarch, Marlyn, announces over a family meal, “I’m leaving your daddy. We lost our son,” she says. “It’s ruined us.” “Do you think Leo would have wanted this?” one daughter asks. “I have no idea what Leo would have wanted. That’s the point. He’s not here.” What follows is the saddest dessert description known to man: “Now dessert is before them, loosed from its box, sitting on a doily in the middle of the table, a key lime pie, with the words kosher and pareve on the discarded wrapping.”
What did we learn here, kids? Drop the news after dessert. And for more literary delicacies, come back in August for the next installment of Fiction Addiction.
—Erika Anderson [photos, text and captions] moved to Brooklyn from Geneva, Switzerland. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, contributes to Hunger Mountain and tweets for the Franklin Park Reading Series.
—Jeremiah Cumberbatch [photos] is a photographer based in New York City, and regularly photographs Fiction Addiction. Find him here.