Second Pass Party

1. EDITOR AND AGENT MAGICAL TRIFECTA! Julie Barer, agent for Barer Literary, PJ Mark, agent for Janklow & Nesbit Associates, & Amy Hundley, editor for Grove/Atlantic. 2. Lauren Sandler, who wrote a book called Righteous, which is about the Christian right (scary!), reader Carlene Bauer, & Melissa Anderson, who writes about film for the Village Voice.

Last night, Melville House hosted The Second Pass’s first event, a reading and party. The reading portion featured excerpts from works-in-progress by four Second Pass contributors, and also a “largely forgotten work, in keeping with the site’s preoccupations.” The party portion included wine (heavy on the red, light on the white), and enough cheese to choke the audience, as the site’s editor, John Williams, said. Williams promised us that the readings would be “brief and potent,” and he definitely delivered on that promise.

Carlene Bauer, author of Not That Kind of Girl, read from her upcoming “novel in letters” about two writers who meet at a writer’s colony. At first I was like, Oh great, another fucking novel about writers. But then she told us that the female protagonist is a novelist and a Catholic, and the male protagonist is a poet and a manic-depressive, and that they are loosely based on Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, and my doubts faded somewhat. They were erased completely once Bauer began reading from a section that was “perhaps” the beginning of the protagonists’ love. The letters are every bit as beautiful, weird, and sweet as one would imagine love letters between O’Connor and Lowell would be.1. Readers Maud Newton & Lauren Kaminsky. 2. Katia Bachko, who is a fact-checker for The New Yorker, & Michelle Vames. They said that Will Blythe was their favorite.

Will Blythe, author of To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever, read a section of his upcoming novel, which is about a woman who is reborn into a whale and a scientist who has suffered from an aneurysm and was once trying to decode the whales’ song. The section featured a lot of cussing by a toddler, which had the audience laughing.

An excerpt from Maud Newton’s novel-in-progress, When the Flock Changed, won the 2009 Narrative Prize, and so she read a section immediately after that excerpt. The main character, Lula, steals gum from her mom’s purse and wakes up the next day feeling so guilty that she thinks her deserted neighborhood is empty because of the rapture. But no, the neighborhood is actually empty due to a marathon. The excerpt ended with a dead woman, and definitely left us wanting more.

1. Literary power couple alert! Bauer with John Williams, who is the editor of The Second Pass. 2. Reader Jason Zinoman, thinking about gore. 3. Thessaly La Force, who is the web editor for The Paris Review. She says that John Williams is a gentleman.

Prior to the reading, Jason Zinoman asked Williams whether a thoughtful section or a violent section would be best. According to Zinoman, Williams gave him a look like I asked you to read for the sex and violence. So Zinoman read us a section about horror movies in which The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, possibly the scariest movie of all time, was discussed. He explained that this “trashy, violent pleasure” just approached high art — but didn’t quite hit it, of course, because that would defeat the purpose.

1. Musician and husband of Maud Newton, Max Clarke, & writer Jessica Ferri. Apparently Ferri and Newton were blog friends for a long time, but they didn’t meet IRL until a couple weeks ago. This was the first time Ferri had heard her read, and she was really excited about doing so. 2. The crowd after the reading.

Lauren Kaminsky closed the show with a section from Wilhelm Reich’s essay “Listen, Little Man!”, an insane-sounding but charming rant directed at the little man inside us all. Such questions as “Do you know, little man, how a bed bug looks under Northern lights?” were raised.

All in all, this was an awesome reading, with all of the contributors bringing something unique and deeply satisfying to the table. Brief and potent — fuck yes.
–Julia Jackson is working on her MFA in fiction at Brooklyn College, and is a regular contributor for Electric Dish.
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