Considering the Awesome Debut of Adam Levin’s Hot Pink, Presented by Vol. 1 Brooklyn and McSweeney’s
1. Adam Levin’s balloon, having a nap. 2. Ian Perez, a teacher, with Patrick Hannon, a Levin fan and fiction writer.
Hot pink is not a color my eyes catch in pleasure, though when I was covering an event at WORD about a month ago, I spied these words on a book authored by a dude named Adam Levin. He wrote this book called The Instructions and it’s really big and incredible. Also about a month ago, I started anxiously awaiting last night’s event at powerHouse Arena in DUMBO: Vol. 1 Brooklyn and McSweeney’s helped debut Levin’s short story collection, Hot Pink, with readings from Adam Wilson and Karolina Waclawiak, a live Q&A, and free beer. And there were Adam Levin balloons.
1. Managing Editor Tobias Carroll was our emcee! He rules. 2. Karolina Waclawiak: “A hot dog with relish was $1.75. I found that outrageous.” 3. Adam Wilson: “‘My hot dog’s getting soggy.’”
Late afternoon sun was pouring through powerHouse’s huge windows when I arrived, and I was stoked to see so many people inside well before 7, all good looking, all sipping beer. Events at powerHouse are pretty sweet: most of the huge warehouse space holds concrete retail tables that help shape the reading area in the back, which is set off with perpendicular sets of benches and big concrete steps behind them. The store has a great echo too. It makes anyone behind the mic sound really goth. And metal.
I caught a seat in the front of the stage’s two chairs and Adam Levin balloons just as the lights were cut. Vol. 1’s Managing Editor Tobias Carroll introduced the night’s first reader, Karolina Waclawiak, the Deputy Editor at The Believer and author of the forthcoming novel How To Get Into The Twin Palms (Two Dollar Radio). Waclawiak read two short sections from her novel, which is set in LA and stars Anya, who lusts after Lev, a man who lives in her Russian neighborhood in LA. I like almost anything set in Southern California, and I can’t wait to read Waclawiak’s book. The longer of the two sections found Anya reading bingo numbers at a senior citizen home. Mary, an octogenarian, converses with Anya during a break: “You need sex. I need sex. … Look at Carla. 92. She wants it. … I’m 82 and my libido is raging.” My favorite: “The old ones just squish … Don’t get an old one. You don’t want to feel the squish.” Guys, never forget octogenarians and nonagenarians need hanky-panky too.
1. Adam Levin, pictured here not gripping the mic, reading about a schmuck-father. 2. Jason Diamond, who expressed he wanted to be an old Jewish man, seated with Levin, who agrees.
“I’m glad you laughed at the dirty parts of Karolina’s book,” Adam Wilson started, “because I’m going to read something dirty. And a bit sad.” Wilson read the same section from his totally awesome Flatscreen I heard at Franklin Park last month, though powerHouse’s echo highlighted the sad registers woven through Wilson’s sentences. A scene of orgy involving perma-robed Eli, pill-popping Kahn, and ditzy-blonde Beth drove a line like “Beth looked nothing like her Facebook pic” harder into the sadness court without sacrificing the comedy. Some lines were just hilarious. “‘Pop these.’ Done. ‘What were those?’ ‘The big V.’ ‘Valium?’ ‘Viagra.’” Wilson’s valley girlish voice for Beth, too, was spot-on and walked the fine line of simultaneous laughter and wince. Just imagine a 20-something blonde in, like, Dale Cooper’s dream sequences in Twin Peaks.
Tobias Carroll said Levin’s book is “a novel that stays with you long after you’ve read it.” I’ve only read excerpts from both of Levin’s books, but after last night, I think Hot Pink will stay too. Levin, in a well-worn black hoodie, took the stage and gripped the mic. I never see writers do this. They should do it more. It looked awesome. Levin read three short-shorts from the collection with lines like: “These cred-giving girls would be all over him, … as he’d demonstrated by dating that girl with the weird bulge above the puss area. Cort wasn’t shallow,” without sarcastic inflection but earnest conviction, letting his sentence do the work.
1. Suzy Diwald admires Adam Daniels’ drinking technique, who writes for FADER. Both work at the Whitney. Wheee! 2. Paula Levin, who holds an MFA in trying to make shit happen, is Adam’s sister, and a founder of The Literary Arts Boom; with Rachael Rosenblum, who holds a PhD in being friends with Adam.
Afterwards Jason Diamond, Vol. 1’s Founding Editor, sat down with Levin and had a chat. Topics ranged from the literary, to Chicago, to having Levin’s name on balloons. “I like it,” Levin said, “I think everyone should do it.”
In almost every article/write-up/review I’ve read, it mentions Levin’s sequence of books. Usually, authors publish a collection of short fiction first and then a novel, and Diamond’s first question was, “Why the novel first?” “I don’t know,” Levin said. Drafts of some of the collection’s stories began way before or parallel with his work on The Instructions. Stories allow him to be more “tightassed,” he said, an adjective everyone should start using. The questions moved quickly, which gave the audience a sense of who Levin is in the writing chair and out in the real world. So, if you ever wanted to know that Levin wants to talk about sex with old Jewish men, or that he smokes yellow American Spirits, now you do. He would also probably appreciate a carton of them in the mail.
You can buy Hot Pink here. Next week, 4/10, all of you should head to Public Assembly for Vol. 1’s next installment of their “3-Minute Stories” series. Tobias Carroll: “The topic will be punk. It will be amazing.” Jason Diamond: “Best night ever.” I agree. RSVP here.
— Ryan Chang is from Orange County, CA and lives in Brooklyn. He is the Staff Writer for The Outlet, and his work has previously appeared on Thought Catalog. He is in the internet here and here.