“The Rumpus Loves New York” and New York loves The Rumpus
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1. K.Flay bringing the party to a close, or more rightly, to its next party. 2. Beth Lisick, memoirist and performer, and Jami Attenberg, author of the forthcoming novel The Middlesteins were way too good at manning the merch table.
A line is a line unless it’s line for The Rumpus, the San-Francisco based blog with a religious readership I can now attest to after Monday’s event. The site and its human counterparts, including founder Stephen Elliott and managing editor Isaac Fitzgerald, were in Brooklyn for their literary-ish party, “The Rumpus Loves New York”. The line spilling outside of Public Assembly in Williamsburg early Monday night was a buzzy taste of what awaited us inside. Edging the corner of Wythe and North 6th, the line regenerated itself after each sweep of guests entered the venue. In front of me, a woman stepped away from her spot to offer up her extra ticket for free. That’s the kind of line you want to stand in.
Things got even better inside! Stephen Elliott played emcee for the evening, as well as implacable dance-party-instigator. Stephen has major amounts of verve, so much that I expected him to start Jamiroquai-ing across the stage. San Francisco hip-hop supernova K. Flay worked the crowd from beginning to end with hard beats and smooth rhymes. The first few seconds of her set had my friend whispering in my ear, “I want to ride that voice.” Yes.
1. The stage looking totally sexy, about to get sexier. 2. Lipsyte tells a love story that no one wants as their own. It made us laugh anyway.
Next was the humorous if slightly acerbic voice of Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask, whose short story about two disillusioned individuals reuniting sixteen years after a magical night at a party brought the room’s volume to pin-drop levels. Lipsyte’s prose scraped uncomfortably — and comically — along the narrator’s hangups and the balding head of a moronic man who says things like “totes” and means it. With well-timed commentary on the word “artisanal,” (“Mennonite soul food”, according to the waiter in the story), all the familiar bad-date cringes turned suddenly and thankfully hilarious.
3. Nick Flynn and Sari Botton being smart and unfairly attractive. 4. Amber Tamblyn’s reading gave her wings, but it might have been the five shots of whiskey, too.
“There’s only so much you can say about yourself,” Nick Flynn said to Sari Botton during a live version of Boton’s Rumpus column “Conversations with Writers Braver than Me”. Topics included the onscreen adaptation of Flynn’s memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, the genre as “the most egoless genre”, distilling universal truths from personal events, and where responsibilities lie: capital-T truth or your real-life subjects. Said Flynn: “it’s easy not to tell someone you wrote about them when they won’t talk to you.”
Introducing a tint of Hollywood’s gold gloom, actress and author Amber Tamblyn stood in a notably ironic position under the red lights to read five poems for five child acting stars who never quite make it out of the girlhoods for which they’re celebrated. Tamblyn downed a shot between each poem, delivering her lines with a quiver that felt like a ghost’s music. Longtime Rumpus pals Janine Brito and Nato Green brought the crowd outrageous laughs with their San Francisco brand of way-left-from-center comedy. You can’t call yourself a liberal until you’ve broken your jaw laughing at Briton’s faux-slam poetry, Clinton threesome fantasies, or Green’s re-classification of illegal aliens.
1. The cool kids in the back: Tim McDonnell, writer for Mother Jones; and Nicole Pasulka, a freelance reporter. 2. Isaac Fitzgerald, managing editor of The Rumpus and expert mug-salesman. No one resists that.
After a break for drinks and elbow-nuzzling with the crowd, we got back together for Andrew McCarthy, actor and travel writer, who gave a tease of a reading: a short story chronicling a blackout trip in which an incapacitated narrator passes out in Berlin and wakes up in Amsterdam. Prostitutes and small bags of cocaine make delightful appearances.
1. Consider what all your old apartments would say if they got together to swap stories.” Go find this book, now. Colson Whitehead knows New York. 2. Noah Burton, a Rumpus reader and sorta-Isaac-Fitzgerald-lookalike?; Sarah Steele, picture researcher; and Andrew Linderman, writer and storyteller.
“I’m here because I was born here, and thus was ruined for anywhere else,” began the first chapter from novelist Colson Whitehead’s essay collection The Colossus of New York. The tour-de-force rendering (a will-be classic) expertly draws out the city’s chameleon skin as well as our impossible sentiments for it. “The New York City you live in is not my New York City; how could it be?” With all of the night’s iterations of The-Rumpus-hearts-New York, the evening confirmed that the feeling is mutual. Whitehead’s reading culminated like a proper finale should, in phrases that dazzled and thundered out the truths of our shared New York lives. After, we stood up from our seats, and Stephen Elliott started the dance party once more.
— Karina Briski is a writer, online and in person. She currently lives here, and in Brooklyn.