Franklin Park — An Anniversary!

1. Writer Kyle Erickson & painter Sei Shiroma. 2. Reader Moshe Schulman. He said he’s excited to read at the series! He told me that he feels like an honorary Sarah Lawrence graduate since he has been put in touch with so many SL students and alums since living in the city.

Last night, Franklin Park celebrated their two-year anniversary! In usual FP fashion, the bar filled up early. (Tip: If you want to get a seat, get there before eight, even though the reading usually doesn’t begin until 8:30.)

1. Reader Jami Attenberg, Catherine Gambrell, who works at Allure Magazine, & Carl Gambrell, who is a graphic designer. 2. Franklin Park Two Year Cake!!!!

Curator Penina Roth told us that in the two years that the series has been around, it has hosted nearly one hundred writers. Two readers last night had read at Franklin Park before: Jami Attenberg read at the very first one and Susan Shapiro first read in September of 2009. And the final reader of the night, Benjamin Hale, nicely embodied Franklin Park’s motto: “Provocative, humorous, and poignant.”

Now, on to the readers!

Moshe Schulman, a non-fiction writer, read an excerpt from a larger work entitled “The Wise One,” which was about how he is a disappointment to God, his father, and anyone else named Moshe. It also included the motto of the orthodox Jewish community that he grew up in: “Every time a Jewish baby is born, we stick it to Hitler!”

Susan Shapiro, a journalist, read from her second novel, Overexposed, a book that, she explained, was so old when it was finally published that it needed a book mitzvah instead of a book release party. We heard about how her family reacted to her first job in the publishing industry. Her father was not impressed; he wanted her to be a lawyer.

Ophira Eisenberg, a comedian, told (not read) us a story (routine?) called “Points for Trying,” which was about a mediocre homecoming comedy routine and what brought it about (a desire to impress her family and childhood friends and a really good sandwich).

1. Erin & Morgan, who are dancers and artists. Morgan used to be co-workers with Schulman at a restaurant!! 2. Joanna, a photographer and actress, Lauren, a poet and children’s book writer, Ally, Sarah, & Lee, who are all “supporters of the arts.” Lee explained that he’s heard a lot of “hype” about the reading series, and he figured it sounded like a good time since Franklin Park is a cool bar and the reading is free.

Jami Attenberg, a fiction writer, read us the first chapter from her forthcoming novel, The Middlesteins, entitled “Betsy, 150 Pounds.” But first, she told us that she wasn’t sure if she should feel bad for Benjamin Hale or not — he was the only non-Jewish reader of the evening. The chapter showed the first date of a man and a woman who would end up getting married, and we came to understand that this marriage was going to have disastrous results. But it began joyfully with Chicago deep-dish pizza! And hospitals! (Okay, fine, hospital = not-so-joyful.)

1. Reader Benjamin Hale, Sara Ortiz, an intern at Broadcastr, & Jeannie Rose Field, a lawyer and writer.

Benjamin Hale, a fiction writer, answered Attenberg by explaining to us that while growing up, he felt much like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger must have felt about Black blues musicians… except his Black blues musicians were secular Jewish writers. He read an excerpt from his new novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore— the part that he reads at bars, not at bookstores, he said. In it, we learned about Bruno’s origins (also, Bruno is a chimp). And his father’s habit of smoking (yes, a smoking chimp). And then we heard about his father raping a frog, which caused the crowd to erupt in my very favorite kind of laughter, the kind that is mixed with disgust. Hale went into full detail, dribbling monkey jism and all. By way of explanation, I heard one bar patron say, “People from Colorado are fucked up.” Yup, fucked up. And in the best possible way, too.

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

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Thank You!