Franklin Park Reading Series + PEN American: Where Everrybody At

1. Crowd! 2. Winston Scarlett, who works at Mediabistro, with Marilyn Louis, a performance and visual artist.


I got soaked en route to the Franklin Park Reading Series on Monday night, but this did not stop me and hundreds of others from packing into the main room to see and hear some serious literature. The series teamed up with Pen American Center to bring us tales of elemental families, pioneering astronomers, gossip radio shows, and the “historocity” of a little place called Brooklyn.

1. Curator and host Penina Roth doin’ her thang. 2. Matthew Aaron Goodman, who once used the same hair products as yours truly, telling us why the “Natural Museum of Historocity” has to move.


First up was Crown Heights local Matthew Aaron Goodman who, besides being a novelist, is also the “Director of the Natural ‘Historocity’ Museum.” Less a physical museum than a virtual record of oppressed peoples, Goodman read us his address to the directors of the museum upon his move (and the museum’s) to Santiago, Chile, for if America was “being who it was supposed to be, it would be thriving in our public schools.” Next, Goodman read a piece titled “Leaving Brooklyn,” which gave a biographical account of the narrator’s life in Brooklyn. “Dear Brooklyn, it was your Bed-Stuy before there were hipsters … This country, like every country, can be brought to its knees.” Goodman is probably someone you want to keep tabs on.

1. Paul Morris, PEN’s Director of Membership, Marketing, and Literary Awards, introducing his PEN gang. 2. Amy Brill: “Did you do your reading on the subject of gravity?”


Next up was Amy Brill, who brought her debut novel The Movement of Stars with her to the reading. Set in a Quaker community in 1840s Nantucket, amateur astronomer Hannah Goodman Price is looking to infiltrate the male-dominated astronomer world. Things get complicated when she must tutor a young Portuguese man named Isaac who is looking for “cosmic instruction.” Her attraction and world view complicate Price’s mission. Brill left us hanging when her excerpt threw Isaac’s future with Price into uncertainty.

1. Matt Bell, who might be one of the ten most metal people I know, reads from In the House: “For if mother was element, so was father, and so was ghost.”


After the break, Matt Bell kicked off his book tour in support of the massively titled In The House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods. The novel’s world thematizes physical place between the four elements house, dirt, lake, and woods as an elaborately involved allegory of the complications between parent and child, parent and partner, individual and family in our world. Before we thought this was only intellectual exercise, Bell’s acoustically attuned prose made us feel the ideas behind his novel. “In hopes of catching my wife alone I began to take opportunities to exhaust the foundling, to chase him around the house and the yard behind, each time inventing some game for us to share.”

1. Edwidge Danticat: “Quick, he wanted to think of a story to tell him now, a story of dangerous mistakes made by both father and son.”


To end out the night, Edwidge Danticat graced the neighborhood with a preview of her forthcoming novel Claire of the Sea Light. Set in Haiti, the daughter of a fisherman goes missing, which incites (from the excerpt Danticat gave us) Max Jr. and Max Sr. to reflect on their origins and their futures. “But what do you do when your misguided child, in some stupid effort to distract you from who he really is, commits a violent act?” Max Jr. and Max Sr. converse over the gossipy radio show “Di Mwen,” which brings Danticat’s narrator to one of several hearts of this novel: “Maybe his generation was the problem. They’d built a society that was useless to their children. Still, these children seemed to lack the will to sacrifice and build their own.” Be on the look out for this one.

Next month, it’s the series’ annual “Travels and Journeys” night, and boasts Emily Raboteau (Searching for Zion), Elliott Holt (You Are One of Them), Royal Young (Fame Shark), Sarah Bruni (The Night Gwen Stacy Died), and Samuel Sattin (League of Somebodies). Miss it not.


— Ryan Chang is a person, and breathes during sleep. He tweets here and tumbles here.

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