I AM ART: Things we say at the Franklin Park Reading Series

1. This is what a bar looks like 2. Are you a winner? Elise Anderson will tell you

Guys, I’m pretty sure spring is here to stay now, save any ire-ridden tantrums from that thing called the weather. So I was wholly unprepared for the mass of people an hour and a half early for Penina Roth’s monthly reading series, well on their way to drunken glee. Readers Maris Kreizman, David Gilbert, Teddy Wayne, Fiona Maazel and Heidi Julavits brought deliciously literary tales of Andrew Lloyd Webber, looking for a woman you met on the Internet inside the Met, Bieber fever, cults, and letters you wish you’d sent to a student in your MFA workshop.

1. Maris Kreizman and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yeeeah, buddy. 2. Poet Angel Nafis appeared at Franklin Park. That’s a flyer for her poetry series at Greenlight Bookstore, “Greenlight Poetry Salon,” which happens on 4/24. You should go.

Maris Kreizman, maven of the tumblr Slaughterhouse 90210, told us about the time she was a middle-aged woman trapped in a tween body. “I was gap kids on the outside, panic attacks and 34Cs on the inside.” Kreizman took us through her 12-year-old self’s critical love affair with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, since “clearly this was all shit [she] could relate to,” with that ideal mix of self-deprecation and nostalgia. “Thank you, Andrew Lloyd Webber, you soulful genius,” Kreizman closed.

1. David Gilbert on teenagers who get stoned. 2. Writer Ed Kearns with wife Nicole Kearns. This is what joy looks like.

Next: David Gilbert with a selection from his forthcoming novel, And Sons. Gilbert introduced us to Andy, a 17-year-old New York teen with literary aspirations and his good friend Doug, an “overweight golden retriever with a drug habit.” Stoned Andy and Doug travel to the Met, that building where “the most important mail is being sorted inside,” to meet a woman Andy met on the internet, a lady named Heather. During their search, Andy, in all of his stoned teenage glory, figures out life before the rest of us: “Suddenly Andy understood the human tendency towards expression … ‘I am art,’ Andy thought.” Shine on, you crazy diamond.

1. Teddy Wayne: “Stick out your tongue like, ‘Screw you, man, I just wanna hang out with my girl.’” 2. Tara Trate, a painter, and Brian Riggio, who tends to critters.

Teddy Wayne read from his new and widely acclaimed novel The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, whose titular hero is an 11-year-old “Bieber-esque” popstar on tour with his mom. We met Valentine on his way to a photo shoot with another pre-pubescent popstar, Lisa Pinto. “Celebgenic,” Valentine says, “they look good in photos and videos, but really wouldn’t stand out in real life.” Lisa is decidedly uncelebgenic, she looks “that good in real life.” And you know what else? Her “hands felt like luxury hotel sheets.”

1. Fiona Maazel: “The cancer had happened so fast…the skin of her hands and foot went horse hoof.”

And … we’re back: Fiona Maazel read from her new and popular novel Woke Up Lonely, which came out on Graywolf Press last week. Lonely concerns an increasingly popular cult at the tail-end of Dubya’s administration called The Helix, based in the suburbs of Cinncinati. If you saw our review of Maazel’s novel that went up last week, you’ll know that we really love her precision. Besides the wonderfully weird conceit, I experienced sheer joy and just listening to Maazel read these lines: “Because you are loved, you do not think about the crust in your eyes … because every first kiss holds the hope and promise in the world.”

1. Heidi Julavits: “Xanax?”

Pinch hitter Heidi Julavits closed out the night with excerpts from her “adult journal.” What did we learn? That Julavits watches The Bachelor, which is pretty much just like an art colony, where “crushes thrive in small spaces.” Julavits, who met her husband Ben Marcus while at an art colony, knows that “art communities are like singles mixers for the marrieds or otherwise spoken for And to close, Julavits read “Student Critique #81,” an unsent letter to a graduate student who participated in one of her workshops. It begins “Remember me? We had a writing workshop together. Also a lecture. But maybe you didn’t clock me because there were so many people in that room, and besides I was only the professor.”

Another great night from Penina and crew. Next month you can love it twice over. May 6 is a joint event with Harper Perennial to celebrate the launch of New Yorker editor Ben Greenman’s new novel The Slippage. Sir Greenman is bringing Sam Lipsyte (The Fun Parts), Amelia Gray (THREATS), Touré (I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon), and Claire Vaye Watkins (Battleborn) to help party. May 13 is the regular installment, which brings Karen Russell (Vampires in the Lemon Grove), Elissa Schappell (Blueprints for Building Better Girls), Roxane Gay (Ayiti), Leigh Newman (Still Points North), and Michael Heald (Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension) to Crown Heights. Party Party Party.


— Ryan Chang does not eat cheese but sometimes likes looking at it. He tweets here and tumbles here.

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