BETRAYED! at Franklin Park

by Julia Jackson

1. Diego Ongaro, Filmmaker, Roasted Pig Delivery Dude, and Hubby to Courtney Maum, fiction writer, humourist and Outlet contributor, with Michelle Legro, Online Editor to Lapham’s Quarterly. Kielbasa Dogs not named. 2. Penina Roth, Founder and Curator of the Franklin Park Reading Series and professional podium raver. We have the same Smiths cassette. Yay!

It felt like summer last night in Brooklyn, and Franklin Park’s big front yard seemed like the perfect place to round out the particularly gorgeous day. Inside, a crowd of literary lovers was ready to get back stabbed, cheated on, and psychically attacked. Or, in other words: It was Betrayal night at this month’s installment of Franklin Park Reading Series. Joseph Riippi, Leah Umansky, Fiona Maazel, Toure, & Heidi Julavits were the writers who would share their sordid tales.

1. Joseph Riippi: “How to Make a Cloth House.” 2. Poet Leah Umansky: “Dick and Jane go viral.”

Joseph Riippi was up first. You might have seen his name on the top of HTMLGIANT, or, you know, in literary magazines and websites like The Collagist, Tin House, and Bomb. He read an excerpt from A Cloth House, which is a pretty little novel about child abuse (among other things). In the excerpt, we heard from a child who was experiencing perhaps the deepest form of betrayal — that of their family.

Leah Umansky read next. My boyfriend, who was sitting next to me, groaned quietly when he heard she was a poet, but he was quickly swayed by her humor. I, on the other hand, didn’t need to be swayed. Umansky’s poetry is lively and sharp, and featured cultural ubiquities such as Dick and Jane, World of Warcraft and iPhones, Botox and Dr. Phil.

1. Novelist Fiona Maazel, who informed the crowd that sock poppets can be “laundered of their grief.” 2. Crowd, silently accepting my blinding flash.

Fiona Maazel read an excerpt of a new story, “Clear Over Target, the Whole Town in Flames,” which will be published in the next issue of Conjunctions. She told the crowd that she had wanted to have her students at Brooklyn College “workshop” it as an exercise last year, but they had been either appalled or out for blood, and therefore it never happened. If you didn’t like what you heard, she said, you should blame Brooklyn College. Or, considering that half that class work/worked for Electric Lit, I guess you could blame us (I was in the appalled category — workshop my beloved teacher? Blasphemy!). Fortunately, the excerpt was in signature Maazel style: hilarious, razor sharp, and with a microscopic attention to the language.

1. Guys, this is where butts live. Butts need your love. Send them some mail. 2. Anna Maund, Photo Producer at, with Justin Spaller, a bartender. Soon, they’re moving really, really close to a diner I really, really like, and I’m really, really jealous.

Toure went up after the break. He read his essay, “An Invitation to Carnal Russian Roulette, or Memoirs of a Sexual Desperado,” which was about when love and war become one in the same, or the other kind of threesome, or, to put it more simply: Cheating. He managed to talk about his philandering ways in a manner that made him come across as neither a douchebag or a misogynist, which is a pretty tough thing to do. I think this came from the fact that he seemed to be just as boggled yet accepting of his decisions as the audience was. Which, I think, is what betrayal is all about: it’s a series of bad decisions that somehow inexplicably feel so irresistibly good.

1. Sara Dempsey, Film person and celebrity stoned birthday dog impersonator, with Michael Fridrich, who’s in the band Rare Child. 2. Toure, author of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?, on the threesome: “My sexual war games, of course, were the threesomes.”

Heidi Julavits was our nightcap for the evening. She told us that had attended “slutty writer places” like Breadloaf and MacDowell with Toure and Maazel, so she might have been involved in a threesome with them, but she didn’t remember. She read from the beginning of her new novel, The Vanishers, which is about a betrayal of the psychic sort, and also about “turning a ho into a housewife. The scene involved a party which sets the scene of the beginning of a fierce female rivalry, which is between Julia Severn, the novel’s protagonist, and Madame Ackerman, Severn’s former mentor. Good stuff.

1. Heidi Julavits, with her awesomely strange novel The Vanishers.

All in all, the evening proved that betrayal can be a lot of fun — just as long as you’re doing the betraying.

Next month, the series is doing a literary journal and small press night, and the line up is killer, featuring Elissa Schappell, author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls and editor of Tin House; Robert Lopez, author of Part of the World (and a personal favorite of mine — he’s a fucking amazing reader); Miles Klee, author of Ivyland; Jack Jemc, author of My Only Wife; and Daniel Long, an editor at The Fiddleback. Definitely not gonna miss this one.


— Julia Jackson (text) is the editor of Electric Dish. Find her on the internet here.

— Ryan Chang (photos & captions) is from Orange County, CA and lives in Brooklyn. He is the Staff Writer to The Outlet, and his fiction and essays have appeared in Art Faccia and Thought Catalog. He is in the internet here and here.

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