Moistland, Loveland: August’s Franklin Park Reading Series
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1. Sorin Grigore, a music producer, with a Franklin Park fan. 2. From left, Michael Schapira, an editor at Full-Stop; Tiffany Gibert from Penguin Books; Emily Wunderlich, Editorial Assistant at Penguin; Robert Colorafi, MTA wizard; Amy O’Leary, a reporter for the New York Times, and Anna Voisard, a writer.
As summer approaches its end, the fine people at the Franklin Park Reading Series thought it was appropriate to unveil the secrets and mysteries of five writers for their August installment. Authors Caitlin Elizabeth Harper, Courtney Maum, Lincoln Michel, Victor Lavalle and Tayari Jones revealed the seedy truths of home invasion, John Mayer’s granuloma, the United Statesian religion, American buffalo, hot grits, and Al Green. Last night’s event was again sponsored by the awesome Small Demons, and drink tickets were passed out generously.
1. Caitlin Elizabeth Harper: “With all eyes on her, she’d said ‘Yes, of course.’ Half of her friends were engaged already.”
The big room was, as always, filled to capacity, and interns Francesca DeMusz and Erika Anderson weaved through the crowd, handing out leaflets for the Small Demons raffle. Just fill in the missing Nikolai Gogol novel mentioned in Lavalle’s The Ecstatic, and a toddler-sized Small Demons t-shirt was yours! A familiar hum of “huge ass crowd” pervaded as Penina introduced the first reader, Caitlin Elizabeth Harper, host and curator of the Renegade Reading Series, held down the street on Franklin Ave. In “Intrusion,” Alice, a recently married, 20-something who’d “come to dislike most things about [her husband], but still liked the moments just after sex,” lives in the old house of Laura, who’s just about to leave for college. Unfortunately, she’s going to have to break into it, as her parents have long moved out. As she reflects on her rushed marriage and lost youth, Alice spots Laura skinny dipping in the pool. Fending for dear life, Alice’s knocked the poor girl out. As she’s lying there unconscious, she admires Laura’s hair, face, and breasts. End reading at loss of control, realization of youth forever gone and nipple-sucking.
1. Courtney Maum: “Moistland. Loveland. There’s so much of it!” 2. Merrill Dagg, Editorial/Social Media at Pulp Lab, Gil Rodriguez, who books bands, and Joyce Manalo, Project Manager at Pulp Lab.
Our own humor columnist Courtney Maum gave her first ever reading from the novel she’s been tweeting about, John Mayer Reviews Things, which follows John Mayer on a “month-long digital cleanse in Joshua Tree, resting vocal cords.” (There is the possibility that Mayer might not ever sing again.) Her reading, excerpted from the end of the book, introduces potential love interest Gabriella, a singer in a punk rock mariachi band. Maum perfectly channeled what can only be referred to as “The Bro,” and since Mayer was resting his vocal cords, we were privy to his most inner thoughts. “I actually know what happened to Daryl Hannah. Animal welfare, vicodin and Scientology.” And when Mayer realizes he won’t be getting any hanky-panky from Gabriella one night: “I need to get home, unload, re-strategize, and jerk off… At home, I go ‘no porn.’ Free-glazin’ it.” I can’t wait to read the rest.
1. Lincoln Michel, who discovered that John Adams’ last month of life was sanctified with a “month-long howl.” 2. CROWD.
Next up was Gigantic editor Lincoln Michel with three shorts. The first, “Good Boy,” opens thusly: “My father beat me with a lot of different things, but the one I remember is the hair dryer.” Michel reads sternly, tinged with finality, but his narrator’s child logic evokes the comic element of his fiction, locating that delicate place between comedy and tragedy. “My father had this beautiful hair, like a woman’s… Later on I watched his hair fall out chunk by chunk.” As his father lies dying in a hospital, the narrator stows away a chunk of hair into his pocket, “the machines around [his] father [humming] and [buzzing].” Michel gulped some beer, and went into “What We Have Surmised About the John Adams Incarnation.” Michel channeled the voice of a future, alien culture examining our “lesser cult,” discovering that John Adams is actually a “prince or minion of George Washington.” After we’d learned that “early United Statesians were a frightening and proud people,” Michel ended his reading with a bit of fan fiction titled “Dorkopolypse.” “I grabbed the sharpest Deschanel I could find and slid her across my wrists… The ominous figure of Justin Bieber appeared.” Jesus.
1. Victor Lavalle, who has the key to Southeast Queens. Win.
After the break Victor Lavalle previewed his new novel, The Devil in Silver (out next week). Lavalle read an early section, which follows Pepper in a mental hospital in Queens, where he is pumped full of Haldol and Lithium. “Those two little pills walloped his ass… he couldn’t even get his hands raised, but the fingers did wiggle.” Pepper gets friendly with a fellow patient, a woman named Dory who had “tombstone teeth — bent in all angles and [glowing] grey.” As Pepper and Dory woozily sit in the TV room, Dory launches into a history lesson about the American buffalo. “The American buffalo was made into big business. Nothing stands in the way of that… I want you to understand where you’ve found yourself, big boy. In here, we’re the buffalo.” Lavalle’s prose uses the language of mental hospitals to elucidate the very real and painful reality of patients’ lives.
1. Tayari Jones: “All you had to say was ‘Al Green’ and ‘grits’ in the same sentence, and the titter of laughter would appear.”
“How many of you are aware that in 1974 a woman threw a pot of hot grits on Al Green?” Tayari Jones asked. A few hands rose. “The Reverend Al Green?” someone in the front asked. “Well, he became a reverend after this.” Jones read a section from her novel Silver Sparrow, which features this very woman as a client of the narrator’s mother, a hair stylist. Mary arrives just as the shop is closing, and insists on having her hair done. Her face, “smooth like a brown egg, no lines or low wrinkles, life she’d never laughed or cried in her life,” charmed the narrator’s mother and began to lay the foundation of a real friendship, but as soon as the narrator’s father enters the story, their friendship goes out the window. Jones’ subtly penetrating sentences make clear what some women are more than prepared to do for love. Sometimes, “when you love a man that much, it’s time to let go.”
Audience prizes, drink tickets and five fine writers every month — what other reading series offers that? As Lincoln Michel noted before his reading, Franklin Park Reading Series draws the biggest crowds of any reading series “well, um, ever.” Next month there are two events for Penina and crew — the first, 9/10, features Kathleen Alcott, Courtney Elizabeth Mauk, Joshua Henkin, J. E. Reich, and Brian Evenson. On 9/20, the series will be throwing in event in conjunction with the Brooklyn Book Festival. Details TBA. Be there.