February Wanderers at the Franklin Park Reading Series

1. Unnameable Books merch table! 2. Requisite crowd shot.

I’d been looking forward to last night’s installment of the venerable Crown Heights Franklin Park Reading Series ever since Penina announced the lineup. While I trudged through the brown and black slush left from the rain, all thoughts centered on the prospect of hearing Dylan Nice’s Other Kinds, which made the rounds of many a “Best Of” list last year, and especially the antics of Lars Iyer’s would-be philosophers W. and Lars from Exodus, which had its American debut at the reading last night. To boot, Karolina Waclawiak brought Anya from How To Get Into The Twin Palms, Tim Horvath introduced us to Doll and Nachbor, and multimedia artist Margarita Korol paid tribute to her mother with a poem and accompanying slideshow. All five delivered; all five were awesome.

1. Poet and Artist Magarita Korol, on her mother’s role to “own the role of victim and proceed as victor.” 2. I really hope this clip came from a Soviet propaganda cartoon.

First up was Margarita Korol and her narrative poem “Spoils of War,” an ode to her mother’s 1988 immigration from the Ukraine to the US. Korol read the poem while we watched a video collage of images from the Ukraine, stills of Soviet-era propaganda posters, and the text itself. “We go away without people we were to be nuclear with,” Korol read, as the familiar melody of “Korobeiniki” danced over hip-hop beats.

1. Dylan Nice: “The place I was from was just as empty but not as flat.” 2. Peter Cavanaugh and Sarahana Shrestha, editors of a pretty cool website called The Short Form.

Dylan Nice brought the heat with “Flat Land” from his collection Other Kinds. What I loved most about this story, besides the lovely acoustics of phrases like “the water ran orange with iron,” was that Nice wrote a sentimental story and not only did it not suck, it ruled. It was funny, it was sad, the sense of risk authentic and palpable. Our narrator first plays tour guide to Lily, a photographer from an eastern city, who “wore her hair long and her jeans high in a way I liked.” Sexual tension is relieved in a tiny, throwaway moment, teasing the narrator with the prospect of leaving the place with “nothing on the horizon, nothing farther in the distance to mark time.” There’s Lily’s subsequent polite rejections, a house fire and her photographic tourism, a visit to the narrator’s older brother and the ultimate realization of being stranded in a place of “no states … only the sky that never got any closer and me moving through places I could not stay.” Other Kinds is a handsome pocket-sized edition; you have no excuse not to buy it and put it in your pocket.

1. Tim Horvath on Nachbor’s NYT spread: “sandwiched between an article about a golfer and one about artichoke dip.” 2. FPRS intern Elise Anderson reading off raffle tickets.

Tim Horvath treated us with a brand new, unpublished story with the working title “chill6.1.doc.” A conductor and composer, Doll, gets chills from the years 1995–2007 exactly eleven times. “The net good the chills brought outdid the bills … the girlfriends he’d driven away. His music would endure.” Doll struggles with producing work, the widespread acclaim of contemporary and one-time college roommate Nachbor, sending him into existential stupor. “He felt a new kinship with cows and other swaddlers … which of [the muggers] would find more ludicrous: his wallet or his composition book?” What follows? A description of the disparity between Doll’s and Nachbor’s respective dorm corners, Doll’s envy, and then to an initially carefree, drunken night of calling out pieces played on a 20th-Century Music WQXR show. It all goes to shit when Doll doesn’t recognize Nachbor’s piece. End of friendship. I’m looking forward to reading this piece when it’s finished, especially this line: “So a priori — save your dirty talk for your wife.”

1. Karolina Waclawiak: “Suka! Suka! Suka!”

After the raffle, Karolina Waclawiak read from How To Get Into the Twin Palms, which details the antics of Anya, a 25-year-old Polish lady in LA trying to pass as Russian. “It was a strange decision to pass as a Russian, but it was a decision based on allure.” The Twin Palms, a Russian night club across the street from her apartment, is a venue where couples fucking against cars. Anya, the ever-insightful narrator, notes that one man “wouldn’t be fucking her if she were his wife.” Men in her apartment building walk past her with “Eastern Bloc homemade hair cuts” and ask “Polski? Ruska? Svetka? Amerikanski?” punctuated with the Russian phrase for bitch/slut: “suka.” Waclawiak jumped forward to a passage where Anya gets a job calling bingo numbers to sexually boastful American octogenarian women. “I’m 82 and my libido is raging … by the time I was your age, I had six [boyfriends].” Yes. Yes. Yes.

1. Lars Iyer: “A life of the mind for postgraduates from all over Britain, a kind of internal exile.

Lars Iyer came to Crown Heights all the way from a magical place called Britain to read from his seriously funny novel Exodus, the third and final installment in his trilogy. Amidst the “end times,” where academics and philosophers are moved to badminton departments, failed philosopher W. takes it upon himself to insult would-be philosopher Lars, who subsequently decides to narrate these insults. Iyer read in that lofty, authoritative tone usually heard from the mouths of white-wigged adjudicators. “My hotel room. W. takes his seat once again on the Chair of Judgement. … Still more questions. ‘Do you think you have a noble face? A dignified bearing? Do you think you have the physiognomy of a thinker? An intelligent face? Do your rolls of fat make you uncomfortable?’” Iyer simultaneously deals with the serious and the slapstick through the philosophical duo, lampooning and celebrating the academy. Kafka, Kierkegaard, and the world’s favorite Slovene Slavoj Zizek all make cameos in Exodus, usually when W. and Lars are hungover, looking for more gin.

Next month is the series’ fourth anniversary, and features Joshua Mohr (Fight Song), T. Geronimo Johnson (Hold It ’Til it Hurts), The Outlet’s very own Erika Anderson (!), Eric Nelson (The Walt Whitman House and occasional Outlet contributor), and a very special surprise guest. Oooh! It goes down on 3/11. Be there, dudes.


— Ryan Chang is a writer, and is generally bad at parties. He tweets here and tumbles here.

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