1. Brian Evenson introducing Paul La Farge. Notice all the bookfans sitting on the floor! Crowded house! 2. Evenson & reader Karen Russell. HUGZ.
Friday saw the release of the 55th issue of Conjunctions, Bard College’s literary journal. With the release came a reading at Brooklyn’s Book Court. This new issue, entitled “Urban Arias,” focuses on the “bond between city dwellers and their metropolitan milieus” and “investigate(s) the very rich gamut of what constitutes one of the oldest experiments in human habitation.” The event was emceed by Brian Evenson, who is one of Conjunctions senior editors, as well as an “Urban Arias” contributor.
I arrived at the reading a full twenty-five minutes late, which I am blaming entirely on the stupid G train. Stephen O’Connor was in the middle of reading from his break up story, “’Til There Was You.” I heard about Grace, Jack, and Buddy, and Grace’s alternately ugly and adorable chin. Apparently, the story deeply impacted those who had arrived early enough to hear the whole thing — after the reading, we tried to approach O’Connor for a picture, but his fans blockaded him.
John Madera was next, with “Some Varieties of Being and Other Non Sequiturs.” He’s been hearing a lot of “conjunction” references, including ones in The Dark Crystal and Twin Peaks.
Karen Russel was third, and she said that reading at Book Court (alongside some of her mentors) made her feel like she’d finally found a spot at the big kids’ table. She apologized for not having some Seinfeld-esque banter about cities (The thing about cities is…), and read a section of “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis,” which was about scarecrows and adolescent boys who were from the projects.
Paul La Farge read last from “The Count of Monte Cristo’s Daughter.” He told us that the story had a lot of plot and tension, but that both happened to take place right after the section he would be reading. Still, his prose was lively enough to hold even the interest of my non-literary-nerd-date’s attention. We learned about protagonist Justin’s trip to San Jose, and his encounters with a girl and her father, who may or may not be a member of an Illuminati-style group called the Rosicrucians.
1. Reader Paul La Farge, with writer Dick Kalich, whose book, Penthouse F, was just published.
Although the readings were all enjoyable, the most striking thing about the night was the audience. It was Friday night — a night more often reserved for binge drinking etc. Moreover, it was cold out — we could have all easily decided on a sweatpant-ed night in. But no! Instead, Book Court was crowded with rapt listeners. All the seats were occupied, and by the time I arrived, a large number of people had taken up real estate on the floor. From my view point in the back of the audience, I got to watch all these people, sitting uncomfortably against bookshelves, their bags and coats draped beside them, loving words. Say what you want about the publishing industry, the state of society, our collective attention spans — at least a segment of us is doing just fine.
–Julia Jackson is working on her MFA in fiction at Brooklyn College, and is a regular contributor for Electric Dish.