What Storytime Could Have Been: The New Inquiry reads Levitate the Primate at McNally Jackson

1. No milk and cookies for us: Sixpoint’s Sweet Action. 2. Fiction writer Benjamin Hale talks about pretending to talk with poet Brian Justman.

What if, when you gathered on the rug for story time, your teachers were from The New Inquiry and the nonfiction fairy tale was Michael Thomsen’s Levitate the Primate: Handjobs, Internet Dating, and Other Issues for Men? That’s what we kids were up to in McNally Jackson on Tuesday night, albeit on foldout chairs.

1. “I’m going to read two stories because it’s my book,” Michael Thomsen. 2. Bob McManus and Ed Nelowet, friends since high school.

Our first storyteller was Helena Fitzgerald. “I saw a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama dancing face to face at the inaugural ball, and I immediately started wondering if they were going to have sex that night.” Didn’t we all, boys and girls? Next, Malcolm Harris read Thomsen’s essay on pulling out. “I never imagined that it could be nice and sweet; just another part of yourself to share with someone you really, really like. Then I realized I’d been coming on myself all these years and never stopped to appreciate how nice it really was.” Perhaps this wouldn’t be entirely relatable for the elementary crowd. But as we’re adult children, no matter.

1. The New Inquiry Gang: Atossa Abrahamian, Malcolm Harris, Helena Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Greenwood and Autumn Whitefield-Madrano. 2. The New Inquiry’s Sarah Nicole Prickett reads “Some Corner in Brooklyn” from Levitate the Primate.

After asking the audience who actually used the word “nonny,” Rachel Rosenfelt reminded us that, “Lovers aren’t like cleaning ladies, who you hire and fire based on skill, proficiency, or recommendation. They’re people you communicate with, someone that you have something to say to in a language that only your body can articulate.” Maybe this is what our teachers meant when they told us to watch our body language.

1. Ashita Batavia, her husband, Mark Lundquist, and sisters Beth and Kate Rubenstein. Both Ashita and Beth did the Peace Corps with Mike Thomsen in Madagascar. 2. Travis Beck traveled all the way from Nebraska to visit his pal David Moscovich, a fellow Disher for Electric Literature.

What did Thomsen give N, his one true love? “I gave her a taxidermy owl with one eye missing, something my grandparents had bought long ago, and which I’d rescued from a back room in my Uncle’s house in Denmark.” Thanks to Sara Nicole Prickett for sharing. And thanks to Thomsen’s grandparents for splurging.

We ventured into brand new territory with Adrien Chen, who acquainted us with Thomsen’s thoughts on anal penetration, “Feeling yourself penetrated at the same time that you are enjoying the metaphysical whoosh of penetrating someone else is surreal. It’s an out of body experience, like an alien abduction or astral projection.”

Finally, it was Mike Thomsen reading Mike Thomsen on residing in New York. “I feel lucky to be here. I don’t deserve to live in a place so densely filled with this much life, secretly aspirating down the avenues. But I do.” Truth.

Wishing story time could go on and on until the break of dawn? Nab the book, snag a cookie, and get reading.


— Erika Anderson teaches at Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, contributes to Hunger Mountain, and tweets for the Franklin Park Reading Series. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Brooklyn.

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