Park Slope meets Cobble Hill: Brooklyn Writers Space Reading Series at Book Court

1. Michael Grabell, before I interrupted him while he was feeding his daughter to ask for another picture. Sorry again, Michael.

You’ve probably already noticed that this is the third BookCourt event The Dish has covered in a row. But if Adam Wilson’s dumpling-filled book launch was a quintessential literary release party, then last night’s Brooklyn Writers Space reading brought a different type of writer and reader to BookCourt. I figured this out when I walked in (late) and heard the sounds of children playing among the books. One cheerio-munching toddler wore a shirt with the words Money Well Spent?, which I assumed was a cruel admission of parental regret, or a reference to Marge ringing up Maggie in the opening credits of The Simpsons. Actually it was the name of her father’s book. To quote my fellow Dish-mate (Ryan Chang) who went with me, last night was a Park Slope Rager, full of professional writing types reading from their published pieces or works-in-progress while their future hip Brooklyn kids wandered through the store, surprisingly quiet.

Michael Grabell began the evening reading from his new book on the Obama stimulus package, Money Well Spent?, which immediately cleared up the shirt confusion. Grabell’s reading focused on a blogger named Liberty Bell, whom some credit with setting out the porcelain cups and nice silverware for the first Tea Party rallies. Even as Grabell described protestors with “teabags hanging from their hats,” his sense of humor backed away from satire, leaving his characters sympathetic and human.

1. Randi Gollin reading about flaky crust and blueberry filling. Yeah, I was hungry. 2. Christopher Wall’s supportive (former) students: Zach, who can’t bear to look at me; Siena, radiant; and Rachel. They’re all actors.

Randi Gollin followed, reading an excerpt from a young adult story about a girl living in Pie Town, New Mexico. Like many New York City residents, Gollin’s protagonist is from a dinky town that she longs to escape. Unlike most émigrés to NYC, she is stuck working in her parents’ pie shop and her name is Sarah Jane Crumble (get it?). Gollin’s story is amusing and heartwarming and reminded me that being from New Jersey isn’t so bad.

1. The hosts of the space! Ginger Cofield, administrator of BWS; Scott Adkins, director of BWS; and Terence Begnan, poet of BWS, which makes him a Space poet. 2. Cool stack of books. There’s a woman behind them, who apologized for ruining my shot. She didn’t.

Next, Christopher Wall read his essay “Naming the World,” which appears in the current issue of Poets & Writers. Wall introduced his work by saying, “I gave this piece to my grandmother and she said she didn’t get the first page at all, but it got better.” I liked the whole thing, which was a rumination on Wall’s new role as the “namer of names” for his young son. Now that his child asks him, “What’s garbage?” he finds himself unsure of his own ability to define the world around him. His certainty in language is replaced by what he calls “flirting with meaning,” a pleasure in pre-linguistic communication that he shares with his son.

Saira Rao ended the evening with a selection from her work in progress, “Elvis is Your Gateway To Love,” a funny story about an overconfident man’s sexual mishaps with several women. I can’t say I relate, but I found myself seriously considering this theory: “Andrew often wondered if being average was the key to happiness.” When asked at the end of the reading what inspired her to write, Rao’s answer was a Neiman Marcus lease contract, which jolted her out of her nightmarish life as a lawyer and into her nightmarish new life as a writer.

1. Christopher Wall, essayist, playwright, and teacher. Quote of the night: “I’d have to make coffee in order to make coffee.” 2. Saira Rao, ex-lawyer and current writer, and Sarah Ellison, contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

Check out BookCourt for some great literature and non-stop readings (apparently). Keep your eye out for Brooklyn Writers Space for more great readings by writers from a mix of backgrounds. Also, if you have the money and a loud, smelly roommate, check out their locations in Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and Gowanus for a quiet, well-scented place to write.


— Sam Gold is where the heart is. In this case it’s in Brooklyn.

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