Pre-Fall Stories at the August Fiction Addiction
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1. Teddy Wayne, novelist and one the evening’s authors; Sarah Bruni, novelist (her debut is forthcoming!) and salsa dancer; Christine Mladic, photographer and Yo Blocker; and Eathan Janney, urban composter.
The first day of autumn is less than a month away now, guys, and that means the stories at every reading series until then are going to expunge all that summer joy in anticipation of dead leaves and cozy nights. On Tuesday, Christine Vines hosted her monthly series Fiction Addiction at 2A to do just that, with Polly Bresnick, David Whitehouse, Teddy Wayne and Joan Silber to assist. Also present were cringe-worthy OKCupid dates, morbid obesity, Justin Bieber’s doppelganger, and adolescent romance. Not all was gloomy, though. “Prince Harry” was there.
I hadn’t been to a Fiction Addiction for some months now, and what I first noticed was how much more crowded it gets nowadays. For good reason: Vines’ taste is excellent and her skill in meshing disparate readers into a dope night of fiction is praiseworthy.
1. Polly Bresnick, whose super power is finding all the dick and ass jokes in The Odyssey. 2. Erin Valerio, Associate Producer for Literary Deathmatch, and professional Google Translator. Yow.
That said, Polly Bresnick kicked off the night with a selection from “Old Gus Eats,” her visual mistranslation of Homer’s Odyssey. While I didn’t learn any Ancient Greek from Bresnick, I did wince-laugh at such choice lines as “Toilet atomic exit. An oven,” and “Laces out,” an obvious nod to Ace Ventura. The stand-out piece was “OK, Stupid”, in which Bresnick’s narrator embarks on a new sort of odyssey: online dating. Equal parts desperate and horny, the narrator’s self-consciousness and denial let me sympathize a fair amount, despite peacockery tendencies. “Her tits were, as promised, huge… I was supposed to say more so I said, ‘I like your sunglasses.’” As the narrator finally accepts his reality, it comes to a head on the story’s final date with a cat-lover. “I felt a lame icy blanket over my promise of sex… I’d taken an online course in preparation of my date.” Enter baking sheet with “small steel tools,” a sickly cat, and a drunk bladder that badly needs to evacuate. Sorry, dude.
1. David Whitehouse, whose accent was completely intelligible, despite his warning. 2. Christine Vines is really famous now, you guys. That’s her hologram.
“My name is Prince Harry, and I’m from the Olympics,” David Whitehouse said, prefacing his U.S. book tour kick-off for his debut, Bed. “Morbid obesity. Morbid. No other condition comes pre-packaged with a human sentiment.” The hundred-stoned man in question is the narrator’s brother, both doomed to share a bedroom together, like children, despite being in their 40s. Whitehouse balances what we Americans call “deadpan English comedy” with a deep sympathy for his characters, allowing us to watch the situation get worse, while hoping, rooting, that they find peace. The occasional intrusion — “This bit is about washing his penis” — helped lighten the blows of some graphic bathing scenes.
1. Teddy Wayne. 2. PARTY!!!
After the break, Teddy Wayne also treated us to a novel excerpt; his first public reading of a work-in-progress. Wayne’s selection followed Johnny, an eleven-year-old pop star a la Bieber, on tour with his opening act The Latchkeys, an “indie band,” and his mother-manager. The crowd met Johnny on his first night getting wasted, out at a club with the band. “They used words like ‘aesthetic,’ ‘ideology,’ ‘polemic’ … Making smart music got you smart groupies who understood what you were doing with your sound.” Sweet Johnny gets some whiskey in his ginger ale, and compares the experience of his cocktail to a sting felt in the video game Xenon. Johnny’s drunk and accidentally lucid realization that he is inexplicably lonely whilst on tour arrives in a cab, watching a Latchkey and a girl get frisky. “I only wanted to smell his cigarettes on his jacket I was wearing, the cologne we were both wearing.”
1. Joan Silber: “And I came in second. ‘Second is good,’ he said.” 2. Amanda Farrone, Fiction Addiction’s brand new intern, with Jeremiah Cumberbatch, photographer and cool dude, who shared his photos with us. Yay!
Rounding out the night was Joan Silber, who also told a story of adolescent romance. The adolescent in question, Louise, grows up in post-WWII America dealing with the stigma of her anarchist father, imprisoned for refusing the draft. “We learned to expect taunts on these trips,” she says, “my father was quieter there than at home… the kids at school were the problem.” In high school, a serious Louise relishes the attention from “serious boys,” though her beau Ted Pfeiffer “hadn’t wanted to start dating [her], because of [her] father.” Though she exacts revenge on Ted by befriending his once unfriendly sister, Louise’s real problem is reconciling her “Two Opinions” — also the story’s title. “I couldn’t believe this butchery was allowed… on the other hand, we all saw the photos of the concentration camps.” To which her mother replies, “‘It’s okay to have opinions … If only you have to have an opinion. If.”
Thanks to Christine Vines for another fantastic Fiction Addiction, and stay tuned for September’s reading. Also, it was Goëthe’s birthday on Tuesday. We pour one for you.
— Jeremiah Cumberbatch [photos] is a photographer based in New York City, and regularly photographs Fiction Addiction. Find him here.