A Novel Night at Franklin Park

1. Diana Spechler, reading from Skinny. 2. Teju Cole, reading from his forthcoming project that he will be working on “for the next ten years.” 3. Joey Lake, who just moved to New York and writes for The Economist, & Sara Cactus.

It’s Monday, it’s June, you’re in Brooklyn. The day is unseasonably cool and cloudy, but the sun makes an appearance toward the end of the day, and it’s beautiful out. So what to do with your evening? Well, if you’re like 200 other Brooklynites, you head over to Franklin Park in Crown Heights for their monthly reading series.

This month’s theme was “Novel Night,” so the bar hosted a bunch of poets. OMG JK! They were novelists. Diana Spechler was up first, reading an excerpt from her recently published novel, Skinny, about a young woman who begins working at a weight-loss camp. Spechler’s selection was full of well-chosen, visceral details, like cellulite-filled leggings that resembled oatmeal, and the special kind of sweat that emerges on one’s body after gorging at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.

1. Full house! 2. Alison Espach, author of The Adults and a Franklin Park alum, & reader Karen Russell.

Teju Cole, author of Open City, read next, and he wondered what kind of parallel universe he had walked into, where “good-looking, well-dressed young people flock to bars” to hear novelists read. “It’s not parallel, it’s Brooklyn,” someone in the crowd yelled. Cole read an excerpt from his yet-unfinished nonfiction book, which is about Lagos, the largest city in his native Nigeria. In this section, photos were being taken, misunderstandings were had, and the ocean consumed an ATV, as well as most of the life from a man.

1. (Skee)baller and reader Stefan Merrill Block.


Russell was up after the break. Like Cole, she too commented on the crowd, saying that Manhattanites have it tough these days, now that Brooklyn is full of good-looking, young, literate people. Then she told us, for set up, that her book was about a lonely, promiscuous girl (which is the very best kind of girl) who thinks she’s having sex with ghosts. Her work, as usual, was beautiful and poignant while managing to be adorably weird.

Stefan Merrill Block was the final reader of the night. He commented that one of the most satisfying parts of reading in bars is hearing people laugh at the sex jokes. The section he read, however, was “devoid of sex jokes,” so he told us to supply our own. We heard the opening section of his forthcoming novel, The Storm at the Door, (out June 21!), which is inspired by his own grandfather’s hospitalization in the 1960s for bipolar disorder. It was pretty heady stuff, but Block still managed to find a sex joke in there: one of the protagonists, Katherine, is sixty-nine.

–Julia Jackson writes fiction and is a regular contributor to Electric Dish. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College.

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