The Other Half
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1. Like a John Hughes film, the kid from Jersey City (me) suffered a series of set-backs on her way to the cool kids’ party: broken camera, lost pen. Here is my crap iPhone photo of “McJ” or McNally Jackson. 2. Sadie Stein, contributing editor at Jezebel, pictured with boyfriend and fellow writer Matthew Colvard. They’re friends of The Paris Review and were on their way to the after-party on Chrystie St.
As I parked my car on the corner of Crosby and Spring Streets and watched the models stumble over the cobblestones, I realized that I’d been to a lot of Brooklyn events lately. At these Brooklyn events, people are chill. They are often bearded, often kind of half-cocked and often just doin’ their thing, man. It’s nice, this Brooklyn-stoner-struggling artist-hipster-Coney Island lager-swilling vibe, “delightfully tacky yet unrefined,” to steal a play from the Hooter’s PR phrasebook, and I’d gotten so used to it that I’d almost forgotten how the other half lives.
I’d almost forgotten how they do it in Manhattan.
Leave it to The Paris Review to re-educate me. Last night was the release party for The Paris Review’s Spring Issue, at McNally Jackson and it was a high-class event. Much as that phrase hurts to type, it sums up the experience, because for starters, McJ (as the awning proclaims it) is in Nolita on a dark corner of Prince and Lafayette that is positively cinematic (isn’t this where Glenn Close lived in Fatal Attraction?).
Then you walk inside, and the store is chockablock with beautiful people. There are cravats, there are Brooks Brothers vest-blazer combos…last night there was even a man in a bowler. In fact, the whole place is like a movie set: everyone mingles pleasantly, each section is tastefully stocked with a perfect ratio of obscure-to-familiar texts and the jacket covers are only the most visually pleasing. The snack bar doesn’t sell snacks; it sells “foodstuffs.”
The Paris Review’s Editor Lorin Stein presided over last night’s event. New York magazine called him “a macho-nerd” and he does have a kind of Jonathan Ames-like roguish charm. He’s pledged that “under his leadership there will be more dancing at parties,” and it seems he’s trying to bring a bit of old-fashioned cool to the magazine.
1. Clare Rossini (right), whose poem The Nitro appears in the Spring issue, with her neice Jennifer Olson and friend Shawn Lowry. 2. Robert Le Baron wandered in off the street. It was his first time at a Paris Review event but he was digging the vibe.
The three writers that read last night seemed to fit into that image. First was Joshua Cohen, reading from his story, “Emission.” Cohen is a natural storyteller — animated, emotional, uses his facial expressions a lot — and his story was great but at times almost overly-hip, with phrases like this one: “Before you, having sex was like staring at the ceiling.” Hmm.
Lorin Stein read from Édouard Levé’s photo/essay titled, “When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue,” a sentence I like very much. His reading was not as much fun as Cohen’s on a scale of pure entertainment value, but Levé’s story was understated and quite beautiful [*].
Lastly came Natasha Wimmer who read from her latest work, a translation of Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich. Frankly, she spoke so softly I was getting lost in the melodic reading so I can’t speak much for the translation itself, but she was wearing cool boots and glasses and Bolaño is excellent source material, so I’m sure it was fantastic.
Though the readers left a little to be desired, my last impression was this: The Paris Review release party was like Gwyneth Paltrow before GOOP and Glee, that perfect girl who never has a hair out of place but maybe needs to cut loose a little more. However, The Paris Review is also the girl who still invites the un-cool loser who stays behind the Coke machine in Brooklyn to the canapé party on Chrystie Street afterwards, so in the end, she’s good people.
I’m told the parties The Paris Review has in-office are a little more hedonistic. This reviewer will believe it when she sees it. Stein, my dance card is filling up, but I think there’s still a spot. Wink.
–Cassie Hay is a regular contributor to the Dish.