PANK — Invasion Brooklyn
1. Daniel Nester is bootylicious. 2. Deb Olin Unferth remembers becoming a temporary Christian. 3. PANK assistant editor Abby Koski and founding editor/reader M Bartley Seigel
After clamoring for a cold $2 beer at Pete’s Candy Store on Thursday, the lights went up in the back room and people filed into the railcar-shaped event space. The room gave off an aura of a burlesque house, which is probably fitting for what was about to go down thanks to the people at PANK. We had nine readers to get through in an hour and a half: Matthew Thorburn, Amber Sparks, Sean Doyle, Sarah Rose Etter, Jeffrey Morgan, Deb Olin Unferth, Daniel Nester, Melissa Broder, and M. Bartley Seigel. For brevity’s sake, I’ll focus on a few standouts.
Sean Doyle took the stage at about a quarter of the way through with a truncated version of “The Huffer,” which recently appeared in Vol.1 Brooklyn. Focusing on a ratty skateboarder with a paint habit, the piece evoked the most visceral reaction from the audience. At one point, the Huffer decides it’s probably an awesome idea to huff a can of engine coolant. “Freon, dude. Freon will get you fucked up!” I’ll just say the audience shrieked in a mix of horror and delight when the hose from the engine coolant can froze to the Huffer’s tongue. It got gross from there.
1. Sarah Rose Etter on Fucking Ben Franklin. 2. Melissa Broder takes the stage.
Next, Sarah Rose Etter read “Fucking Benjamin Franklin,” which ruminated on meeting said inventor via Match.com. Franklin arrives at Etter’s doorstep on horse and carriage, and he speaks only of himself and his inventions. One of the best lines of the night came at the end when Etter stated, “ …when you’re finally fucking Ben Franklin, remember you’re doing it for your heart and for your country.”
Deb Olin Unferth followed with an excerpt from Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War. Having only a few minutes, she chose a section in which the 18-year-old version of herself decides to become a Christian and “move to Nicaragua to join the revolution that was going on there.” Here, Unferth’s stage presence was unmatched. Her composure was practiced and perfect, and her reading voice reminded me of Alice from The United States of Tara, a dissociative personality resembling the atomic age housewife.
1. PANK assistant editor Abby Koski hosts her first ever reading. 2. M. Bartley Seigel reads, rounding out the evening
Next came Daniel Nester, whose God Save My Queen changed just about all our lives. Nester read an excerpt called “The Dative Case,” from his upcoming memoir. After a failed adolescent date, Nester locks himself in a Catholic school confessional, masturbates, and cleans himself up with a hymnal page. Follow with an “Our Father” while listening to Queen, and it’s safe to say your soul is saved.
Once the reading ended, we were hesitant to go out and embrace the ground-level ozone. Yes, I could have stayed there all night. Yes, it would have been cool and fresh from an amazing PANK Invasion. But way in the back of my head I knew that damned G train would shut down and make me walk home, and everything I’d seen would have been washed away in a mix of heatstroke and rage. I’d rather remember it this way, thank you very much.
–John Zuarino is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn.