Bookend Kick-Off! EL & Tin House @ powerHouse
Electric Lit relies on contributions from our readers to help make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Please support our work by becoming a member today, or making a one-time donation here.
1. Literary Agent Renee Zuckerbrot, Tin House editor Rob Spillman, & Greg Villepique, who is the managing editor at Rodale. Literary rockstar status aside, Spillman did a great job helping us with all the boring tasks of setting up, which involved dumping tons of ice and beer into huge trash cans. Who knew that starting a lit mag would later involve such work? 2. Alison Espach, who wrote The Adults, & Lincoln Michel, who co-founded Gigantic and is the books editor for The Faster Times.
Last night, Electric Literature, Tin House, and powerHouse joined forces to celebrate the launch of this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival. Tin House, one of our favorite literary magazines and our co-hosts for the evening, was also celebrating the debut of their new issue, “The Ecstatic.” And the occasion also marked the official release of Electric Literature No. 6, featuring stories by Nathan Englander, Mary Otis, Steve Edwards, Marc Basch, and Matt Sumell. Our new, non-nude cover means that we’ll no longer have a naked man on our home page — maybe Google will finally downgrade us from a pornographic website to one that is merely PG-13 (with a clown fetish). To ring these in there were readings by both EL & Tin House contributors, live music by local band Backwords, and free beer provided by Brooklyn Brewery.
1. Vicki Lame, who is an editor at St. Martin’s, Ryan Chapman, who works in online marketing at FSG, & Helena Fitzgerald, who writes for and is the editor of The New Inquiry. 2. Matt Kish, showing us some of his favorite pages from Moby-Dick in Pictures. Apparently, most of the book was created in a closet-sized studio. I can relate to working in such a space — my first year and a half in New York were spent in a tiny, tiny shoebox of a room.
The party began at 7:00, and although one might have thought that the weather — which had suddenly turned vehemently autumnal — would have deterred the crowd, that was thankfully not the case. powerHouse’s gorgeous space was quickly filled with mingling writers, agents, editors, publishers, and other miscellaneous literature lovers.
1. Reader Kelly Link, whose story was published in the latest issue of Tin House. posing for me before the reading began. 2. Writer Sean Manning, who wrote The Things That Need Doing, & reader and Tin House co-founder Elissa Schappell. Manning also edits anthologies, and one of Schappell’s stories is included in one of these.
Matt Kish started the reading part of the night off with a special presentation of his new book, Moby-Dick in Pictures, which is, much as it sounds like, an illustrated version of Moby-Dick, with one illustration for each page of the book. Kish created these in page order, and drew almost all of them on the pages of salvaged books. He worked at a used book shop in grad school, he told us, and felt a compulsion to keep the books that the shop threw away. He wasn’t sure why he was doing it, but this book gave these discards a new purpose.
Marc Basch was up next. During his introduction, EL editor Andy Hunter explained that co-founder Scott Lindenbaum had first come encountered Basch over two years ago, back when EL was just an idea. He’d approached Basch, asking him to submit work to the would-be magazine. The proposal was promptly forgotten… until, a couple of years later, a story turned up in the EL office that was deemed a definite Yes. This was “Three,” which is about, among other things, what happens when two brothers driving home from their mother’s funeral come across three rural schoolboys fighting on the side of the road. I will give you a hint to the brothers’ reactions: it’s not good.
1. Crowd shot! 2. Backwords provides us with live music after the readings. They’re pretty darn good!
Elissa Schappell read from her story, “The Joy of Cooking,” which I first fell in love with when I read it in One Story, but it’s also published in her new collection, Blueprints for Building Better Girls. This story deals with: adultery, bulemia, cooking (obvs), and daughters. It also talked about how absolutely disgusting raw chicken is, which is a sentiment that I can really get behind. Fellow writers, if you find yourself having difficulty when giving readings, I will give you a tip: model your technique after Schappell’s, because her reading skills are superb.
Kelly Link closed out the night. She is a contributor to Tin House’s Fantastic Women anthology, and is herself a fantastic woman. She read an excerpt from “Summer People,” which was published in Tin House. This story was, as one of her character’s said it, about people doing “things for other people that they could do for themselves, except they pay you.” Her writing was wry and crisp, and altogether enjoyable.
The night ended with Backwords serenading us with their folk-infused rock. I now feel the need to see them in a venue that has more emphasis on music and less on party.
At nine, when the party was slotted to end, people seemed reluctant to leave. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the party. But let’s blame it on the literature.
Good for: People into good lit mags, duh.
Bad for: Those afraid of a lil wind & rain.
– Julia Jackson writes fiction and is the editor of Electric Dish. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College.