THE HORROR! Granta 117 Brooklyn Launch at Greenlight
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1. Crowd straight chillin’. 2. Maisy happily posing. We’re friends.
Granta held their Brooklyn launch of Issue 117: Horror at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene last night. Rajesh Parameswaran (I Am the Executioner is forthcoming from Knopf) and Julie Otsuka (National Book Award Finalist and author of The Buddha in the Attic) both read their stories from the issue that were not ghoulish, but most definitely haunted. If you’ve never been, Greenlight Books is a classy place. There’s a handful of high-back reading chairs and several long, dark book tables, and even a corner for children’s literature with a play house and some toys. Before the reading, I spent most of my time moving the house around. I’m eight.
1. Bookseller Gio ‘g0th’ Ong’s accidentally festive creepers. 2. Fiction writers John Coyne and Rawaha Haile, who informed me that during the holidays Iceland’s Christmas trees are powered by geothermal energy, free of charge. Bjork must lose her shit.
I didn’t get a picture of the booze table, but on a scale of 10 I rate it an 8 for booze at a book store. The wine, both red and white, was good. The bartenders (Granta provided, I believe) were pleasant and good looking. There was a lot of wine left over after, but the store wasn’t as jam-packed as other events I’ve seen at Greenlight. Still, all the seats were filled with some people standing on the periphery. The entire evening was intimate but light-hearted. Everyone seemed genuinely stoked for Granta 117, and with good reason. This issue also includes Joy Williams (!), Paul Auster, Will Self, and this guy Don Delillo. Hm.
Assistant Editor Patrick Ryan subbed for Editor John Freeman. Ryan wanted to assure everyone that Freeman only had a “very bad cold” and was not dying. Ryan gave some background information on the history of Granta and introduced Rajesh Parameswaran. Ryan said we’d all being paying attention to Parameswaran next year and I believed him, because I can’t think for myself.
1. Drummer of Ball of Flame Shoot Fire and Bookseller Pat Kelly sharing an uncomfortable moment with Ellen. 2. Rajesh Parameswaran, reading about a dead zookeeper.
Parameswaran’s quietly loud story fit best on the creepy Halloween-y side of the fence. Parameswaran’s reading started somewhere in the middle of the story, where a tiger attempts to tell a zookeeper that it’s in love with him. Tigers can’t speak English, so zookeeper punishes tiger. Tiger gets pissed. While zookeeper is bleeding to death — blood coming out of his mouth and two huge holes in his neck — the tiger tries to stop the bleeding by licking, but then realizes the zookeeper’s blood is delicious, and so it wants to “keep licking him forever.” While graphically violent, the sadness of the tiger’s incapability to translate its love was palpable. It was an eerily sweet moment.
1. Julie Otsuka reading the mother’s advice to the narrator: “Pull down your skirt. Don’t give it all away.”
Ryan introduced the night’s next reader, Julie Otsuka, with compliments and a simple “What you asked me earlier, well, I will.” Otsuka’s story was haunted in every sense. The second-person narrator began every sentence with, “She remembers,” when describing her mother, who has a severe form of dementia. The story ran the risk of listing itself, but the seemingly random sequence of memories created a space of a woman beholding herself, knowing she was in two places at once.
For those interested, Granta is holding another event with contributors Don DeLillo (whose first ever collection of stories, The Angel Esmerelda, is coming out later this month) and Paul Auster (Sunset Park) at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square. Details here. You can buy Granta here.
— Ryan Chang is a writer and student living in Brooklyn. You can find him on Twitter here.