Readers to Watch Out For at B&N
1. Cherise and Brian, post-GAGA. 2. An eager crowd.
Flanked by the psychotherapy section on the left, and philosophy on the right, I felt right at home for the “Readers to Watch Out For” at the B&N on 82nd and Broadway. But before you pick up your OWS signs and growl at mega-chain bookstores, take into account that all three readers tonight were published by small presses. The reading, curated by Lou Pizzitola, offered a nice change from the dive bars and synagogues that I normally attend, and offered me the comfort of carpet and the pleasure of breathing air untainted by a restaurant basement’s exposed plumbing.
I arrived a half-hour early. I usually use this time to chat up patrons about the event, but as with any B&N reading, the prep-time was spent in quiet contemplation, with eyes zoomed into laptops (PCs not allowed) and thick-pressed hardcovers, and the adjoining chairs were covered with the required minimum of at least two fashionable bags, filled with more computers, books, and papers.
1. The readers, and an inquisitive look from Graves. 2. An old-fashioned book signing.
Just as I was considering joining my company by picking up where I left off in Bright Lights, Big City, the central air and Christmas music ushered in Brian and Cherise, two friends whom had just arrived from the Lady Gaga exhibit at Barneys. The window-display, Brian stated, “was… well, it was for charity.”
As for the readers, Brian considered himself a long-time fan of novelist Rob Byrnes, who read a satire from his work Holy Rollers. Also on stage was Michael Graves, whose book, Dirty One, takes place in his hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts, home of those little combs you received when you had school pictures taken. He offered a compelling voice and drew the crowd in (see picture) with his prose and smile. Two things that can be enjoyed at any reading. Lastly, Laurie Weeks read from Zipper Mouth and captured the lovable voice of an angsty-Plath-loving adolescent. Her protagonist’s monologue about Plath’s “Daddy” had me and the crowd laughing, as it was infused with narration reminiscent of that found in the infamous HoneyBadger Video (He doesn’t care!); her letters to Plath acted as “Dear Santa’s” and captured the wonderful (when viewed from afar) world of her character. She writes, “I”m trying to show my depression more so [her crush] thinks I’m smart.”
Cherise (see photo #1), an art advisor, spoke before the event that she likes readings because they offer the kind of personal intimacy that you miss out on when reading alone. To quote her, it’s “like when mom would read to you at night.” Which is exactly how I felt after the reading: comfortable, in good company, and ready for a good night’s rest. But not before I first stopped at my local bar for a nightcap, the smell of stank air via exposed plumbing, and the dim lighting that draws in those of us who find tenderness in the grit and grime of New York City.
by Rob Byrnes
by Michael Graves
by Laurie Weeks
— Craig Moreau, author of Chelsea Boy, has just finished a book tour and is currently drinking a beer. He is interested in identity, democracy, and word-clouds.