And the Emcee Wore Leather…
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1. Writer Chad Miller came to support his bud Mark Doten. We all followed Brooks’ suggestion to booze it up. 2. Emcee Brooks, who organizes Enclave Reading Series, along with James Freed and Scott Geiger.
Say you’re single this holiday season. Say you’ve been in New York for a while, and you’re fed up with the sparrow-boned, gaunt-cheeked, Sancerre-sipping set. You don’t want delicate. You don’t want Anthropologie.
No, the weather outside is frightful and all you want for Christmas is meat on the bones. A handle to grab on to. You want beer guzzling. You want dark lights and sticky floors. You want loud music and you want leather.
I say, get thee to the Enclave Reading Series, home of the manly man and the rough-and-tumble woman (and incidentally, some damn good writing). It became painfully clear to me yesterday, as I descended the stairs the dark basement of Cake Shop in the Lower East Side, that this was an altogether different kind of reading that I’d become accustomed to. I’d grown used to the polite showings at McNally Jackson and the light applause of Book Court. Even John Waters, who can nasty up a place as quickly as anyone, has a certain kind of grace to him. The Enclave Reading Series, on the other hand, is all down and dirty.
1. Cake Shop: pastries, beer, writers, rockers, and glittery streamers. What more could you ask for? 2. The only room in the joint with light. I retreated to this bathroom to scribble some of Weeks’ lines and found it had been tagged by another literary blog. Uh, where’s my “The Outlet Wuz Here” sticker?
For starters, the topics covered during the afternoon’s readings included hell, heroin-snorting, cadavers and bums. Our emcee Jason Napoli Brooks looked very Rebel Without a Cause in his leather jacket. His monthly spy serial, Cock of the Walk, was on a table near the entrance. And lastly, the audience was very dude heavy. Like, Fifties greaser shirt-wearing, secret-handshake using dudes. In fact, there were only four women total in attendance and one was me. The other was Laurie Weeks, and I’m pretty sure she could have kicked any of our asses.
First to take the stage was Mark Doten, whose new novel is a re-imagining of Dante’s Inferno, populated with journalists, politicians, and other figures from the George W. Bush years. The section he read to us involved Condi Rice handling the production stills from Polanski’s China Town. If that sounds insane, it is. It works, though, even if I’m not quite sure how yet. One line in particular that I scribbled down in the pitch dark: Carrion birds who had not yet filled their stomachs with the young boy. Merry Christmas to me!
Next up was Laurie Weeks who, in addition to teaching writing at UC San Diego and The New School, has toured with the punk band Sister Spit. Weeks read from her novel Zipper Mouth, which she described as being filled with heroin snorting and obsessive brooding. “You know,” she added, “it’s really about the triumph of the human spirit,” then laughed. The reading included such gems as: “Reading Little Women made me realize we’re all doomed,” and “I’ve been trying to show my depression more, so I seem more intelligent.” Weeks’ book is hilarious, sad, and tough. An excerpt of it can be found in Dave Eggers’ Best American Nonrequired Reading.
(Holiday tip: If you go home for the holidays, and a day or two into it you suddenly remember what it’s really like in Columbus, Ohio, you could do worse than to pick up this book. Rage out a little.)
Last to take the stage was John Haskell, author of Out of My Skin and American Purgatorio. He read from some new experimental writing that he quite likes (and turns out, I do too). He calls these stories “sentimental in quotes, so it’s really not sentimental.” Basically, he takes films and breaks down the action scene by scene but then recomposes them into short stories. The effect is disjointed and strange, but in a nice way. The best way I can describe it is that he takes a movie plot and distills it like a vodka, leaving you with a story that’s stripped down, stark and smooth. Haskell read one based on Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp that I found almost hypnotic. (I would have liked to have heard them read with the movie playing in the background, but the red and gold metallic streamers of Cakeshop’s stage weren’t terrible either.)
Listen, I know the holidays can be tough. Time Out New York knows this too, which is why they just put out another cover where they promised to ease the suffering of Lonelyhearts all over the city. They knew all those Zales commercials would get to you one day. They knew your nana would ask you if you’d found that “someone special” yet. They knew that one December day, you would break down and, in a fit of self-loathing and desperation, you would buy the issue and better their bottom line.
I’ll tell you how this all ends. It ends with you at the UCB Theater watching an evening of ‘zany’ improv about how terrible relationships are, half-cocked on office champagne, followed by a long, chilling walk down 23rd Street and dinner alone at Boston Market with soggy cinnamon apples and someone in the corner howling about how “somebody stole their shit,” while they pull a pair of panties on their head. Trust me.
Instead, do yourself a favor and just put the magazine back and wait until Enclave’s next installment. Then snag yourself a hearty specimen. You can thank me later.
— Cassie Hay is a regular contributor to The Outlet. Her essay, “Fishnets,” is forthcoming in New Letters.