David Bezmozgis & Rahul Bhattacharya at the Russian Samovar

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1. Jiayang Fan, Kate Bittman, & Alexis Okeowo, all of The New Yorker. Jiayang especially enjoyed listening to Bezmozgis, since she worked as a fact-checker on his book.

Last night kicked off this fall’s FSG Reading series. The event was held in the upstairs room at the Russian Samovar, which was a very nice space for a reading — softly lit, modestly elegant, and spacious while still being intimate. But by seven o’clock the room was packed, with all the chairs taken and people spilling into the aisles and staircase. Chantal Clarke introduced Rahul Bhattacharya, whose first novel, The Sly Company of People Who Care, will be published by FSG this May. She described his writing as rich, powerful, and having an anthropological quality. Bhattacharya said he wasn’t able to tell if his voice was too loud or too soft, because his ears were plugged up and he “couldn’t yet afford American health care.” If there’s justice in this world, let’s hope that he will be able to soon, especially with a novel debut as striking as this, if the excerpt we heard is any indication.

1. Writer Rahul Bhattacharya, looking like models camping… pretty intense.

David Bezmozgis was up next, and was introduced by Mark Krotov. Bezmozgis pointed out a Soviet theme by saying that he did his first reading of “Natasha” at the KGB Bar, which was “creepy”, and that he much prefers the Russian Samovar. He read a chapter from his upcoming novel The Free World, which will be published by FSG in April. I particularly enjoyed the section where one of the main characters, Alec, rewards himself by going to an Italian pornographic movie theater, from which he “grasp[s] the full extent of Soviet deprivation.”

Afterward, the crowd mingled while sampling the Samovar’s menu of seventeen different flavored vodkas, snagging review copies of Bezmozgis’ novel in between.

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–Julia Jackson is working on her MFA in fiction at Brooklyn College, and is a regular contributor for Electric Dish.

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