New York City

Pitchfork Review – Issue 8 Release at WORD

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Earlier this month, I was privileged to attend a presentation and Q&A (Query an Artist) at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn marking the release of The Pitchfork Review‘s eighth issue. Many of you may be familiar with Pitchfork from their world wide net site blog, known, aptly enough, as Pitchfork. To be sure, their music reviews, news, and other content are quite enthralling. You might say that their articles are worth making hay about. Ahem.

To express that sentiment, I made my way to WORD Bookstore that evening and joined a swelling throng of music lovers, lit lovers, and other miscellaneous torch-bearers. Upon our arrival we were treated to discussion between Haley Mlotek, online editress of The Hairpin and author of the feature article “Beginning To See The Light”, Timothy Anne Burnside of The Smithsonian, and Nona Hendryx, of the musical group Labelle. The charming Mlle. Burnside left no metaphorical stone un-turned in her confessional about the daily life of a 21st-century culture curator, while the mystical and wise Mlle. Hendryx contributed her own impressions from the point of view of an artist who has decided to donate personal belongings to the welcoming bosom of posterity, vis a vis The Smithsonian’s Washington, D.C. collection of items.

Overall, the talk was as educational as it was entertaining. I look forward to the next issue of The Pitchfork Review, and, of course, the next event hosted by the important folks at WORD Bookstore. Look for me then. I will be the 7 foot 9-inch monster with the straw hat, starched collar, and three-pronged farm implement.

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Going Down the Looking… Hole. Through the Rabbit Glass?

As you are surely aware, my ravishing reader, I suffer from an acute interest in the arts, of which literature is only a single compartment in a bureau otherwise brimming with knickknacks, tchotchkes, and bric-a-brac.

Theater, the art of fine drama, occupies one of these compartments. So imagine my excitement upon attending two “immersive” theater experiences in New York City – Sleep No More, a loose adaptation of MacBeth hosted by the McKittrick Hotel, and Then She Fell, the Third Rail company’s reimagination of Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice in Wonderland.

Please believe me when I say, cherished reader, that the astounding degree of creativity and talent that went into these productions filled me with an overwhelming, veritably mythic joy. The innovations! The costumes! The exquisitely-choreographed dance scenes! These “performances” left me bewitched. Je n’en crois pas mes yeux!

Now, having dispensed with effusive declarations, I shall offer some general apercus. First, the similarities stand out. Both productions involved complicated dance choroegraphy, incredibly tactful stage direction, atmospheric soundtracks emitted via hidden speakers, and the ability of each audience member to “participate” in the performance by wandering from scene to scene with some degree of freedom. However, differences did arise. In the MacBeth performance, audience members donned masks and were forbidden from speaking a word. Then She Fell, on the other hand, featured a much smaller audience and the option (even promptings by the actors, in some instances) to speak and interact with the performers. In the latter, audience members were shepherded deftly from room to room by “hospital orderlies,” while Sleep No More seemed to pointedly abstain from any attempt to control its guests.

Thus, my experience naturally differs to some extent from that of other theater-goers. Then again, I am a towering, fur-bound behemoth whose visage resists any casual comparison to the human. That is, after all, what makes me exceptional, and indeed, what makes this theater review unique. I might dare to call it heroic in that regard.

At any rate, suffice to say that Then She Fell did come across as the more intimate of the two. At one point, yours truly found himself alone in a cramped bedroom with a young Alice, whereupon the damsel in question requested that I brush her hair while she asked me in a soft voice about my past romances! This was, while flattering, a tad too intimate for my tastes, as the last romance I remember involved a particularly charming green and scarlet spore that bedecked a live oak tree on the slopes of Mount Rainier. The passage of time may have imbued my memories of her/it with an artificially rosy hue, thanks to the damp climate and above-average rainfall of those years…

Ah, well. I digress. Sleep No More and Then She Fell were certainly love-ly experiences of their own. As I continue to mull over them, rest assured I will share any insights with you that materialize. You are very welcome for that.

Have you attended either of these plays yourself? I’d love to hear about it. Tweet to me @City_Sasquatch.

 

What I’m Reading

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… Whatever President Obama is reading! His summer book list is now available, thanks to the nice humans over at Entertainment Weekly and Literary Hub. The biography of George Washington is no surprise, but also of note is Jhumpa Lahiri’s critically-lauded The Lowland and Atlantic correspondent Ta-Nahisi Coates’s nonfiction book, Between the World and Me.

What a coincidence. Those are on my list as well. How apropos, as I am the self-appointed “president of the wilderness.”

(NB – I have, in fact, written about President Obama’s literary tastes before. Behold.)

Also upcoming this week is a discussion of the wonderful Clarice Lispector’s work at WORD book store in Brooklyn. Lispector’s editor and biographer Benjamin Moser discusses the author’s publications with novelist Porochista Khakpour, thanks to hosts Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Much appreciation to Msr. Ian MacAllen (@ianmac47) of English Kills Review for drawing attention to this event via his column Notable NYC.

 

Sarah Charlesworth, et al, at The New Museum

Old museums are so passe, don’t you think? I agree. That is why I recently took it upon myself to visit The New Museum on Manahatta’s Lower East Side to peruse the cornucopia of art objects, objectifications, and objections to “old art.” Whatever that is.

My wandering eye lead me to a primary exhibit there, consisting of works by photographer Sarah Charlesworth, who came to prominence in New York in the 1980’s (see? new art). The artist’s somewhat puzzling creations range from blown-up photos of people falling – jumping, really – from tall buildings to Buddhas and bulls floating amidst vibrant fields of solid color.

So this is what it means to “deconstruct the conventions of photography” and to connect “the incisiveness of 1970s Conceptual art and the illuminating image-play of the later-identified “Pictures Generation.” I had wondered.

Brava to Mlle. Charlesworth for deconstructing… whatever needed deconstructing. I feel deconstructed myself. And isn’t that the real goal of l’arte? Of course it is.

Conjunctions at Greenlight Books

Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn this week saw a mind-bending reading by a triumvirate of contributors to Conjunctions‘ Spring issue, a “collection of radical reinventions of the genre of nature writing” titled Natural Causes.  Lucy Ives,Michael Ives, and Wil Weitzel bowed and wowed the crowd with their unorthodox approaches to LITERATURE (I’ve decided to capitalize this precious word from henceforward to convey my sense of awe and respect for it, and so that those readers over 352 years old, such as myself, might benefit from the larger type (Jorge Luis Borges went blind before he was 50, don’t you know?)). And I would be remiss to neglect a mention of free wine. Yes, though no whining was heard… Aha! Ha!IMG_1531

Triple Canopy editor Lucy Ives’ reading utterly conquered the point of view of a cat observing its human. This piece, I must admit, flustered me. I could not decide whom I empathized with more – the feline or the homo sapien. Now I know how swans felt when they watched Natalie Portman’s Black Swan.

Will Weitzel read a tense essay about he and his wife’s trip to Ethiopia to witness the feeding of a pack of coyotes by the local tribesmen at dawn. I felt the suspense, dear reader, let me tell you. Of course, one of my oldest friends is a coyote, but I concede that the fellow has no table manners whatsoever. Look for Weitzel’s writing in Kenyon Review, New Orleans Review, Prairie Schooner, and Southwest Review.

Michael Ives’ strikingly original poem inspired by the biblical tale of Noah had my IMG_1523yellow-spotted tongue trembling with questions, but suffice to say, this author is one to watch. Egads, what a statement. Syntax, rhyme, the line, and other respected literary conventions were bent, broken, and thrown in the dust. A brave poem, to be sure.

Kudos to Bradford Morrow and the editors at Conjunctions for continuing to put out innovative writing. Though humbling, the reading also reminded me of how great I am, as most of my experiences do. Follow the journal on Twitter (@_Conjunctions) for updates about readings and issue releases.

 

 

 

NYC Writers’ Haunts, Etc

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Thanks to the dears over at The Millions, this came to my attention: a gaggle of British authors name their favorite words. Capital! Look them over, if you will. They are jolly good yokes. The only question that remains is – are they in English though?

(Spoiler – Hilary Mantel’s is nesh. ‘Natch!)

Meanwhile, Flavorpill associates famous writers with different neighborhoods in the Big Apple. The list is fairly entertaining. Here’s a teaser. Kerouac, Ginsburg, Corso, and Burroughs all lived in the Hotel _____.

And don’t neglect this riveting interview with Frank Cassese, the author of the existential debut novel Ocean Beach. Read it now at English Kills Review.

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A Monster’s New York – The “New” Whitney Museum

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I recommend perusing Bill Morris’ commentary at The Millions wherein he laments the direction that New York City has gone since the turn of the 21st century. Apparently the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District, though “not-unattractive,” according to Morris, suggests that the New York of the 90’s – a “gnarly, unpredictable” city that welcomed starving artists – is gone for good. He seems to think that the Whitney Museum’s old accommodations were perfectly serviceable. Now the monster known as The Whitney is molting, shedding its skin like a serpent. The Met, another venerable art institution in the city, will allegedly lease the museum’s old building. Morris continues:

“So in addition to being expensive, the new Whitney is unnecessary, a luxury item in a city awash with rich people and their luxury items, a wickedly telling monument to contemporary New York’s get-rich-or-get-out ethos. In that sense, it’s the perfect expression of its moment.”

Although I don’t live in the city proper (too expensive… I have not as yet found a landlord willing to accept hair dolls as compensation) and I don’t at the moment possess adequate funds for entry to the new Whitney (my next $22 goes to my ghostwriter to pay for a carpet cleaning intended to mitigate all the hair, for which I take full responsibility), you can bet, dear reader, that I will feast my bloodshot eyes upon this gleaming edifice from a distance.

Because really, there is nothing that captures my attention more than a shiny bauble. 

Oh, look over there! A traffic light! Pardon me. I must investigate, forthwith.

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Free Water Reading at KGB

The April installment of artistic hoopsman-about-town Msr. Britt Melewski’s regular poetry reading, Free Water, was an absolute barn burner, humans. I do not jest when I declare that the air crackled with literary insight and panache, such that the errant pastoral detritus littering the sidewalk outside KGB Bar – the hay and wheat chaff discarded by agrarian residents of the Lower East Side – almost burst into flames. This was a truly spectacular reading.

Free Water #6 splashed our ears with the poetic sorcery of a bevy of accomplished writers including the innovative Kelin Loe, Cave Canem fellow Safia Jama, Edward Mullany, and the astonishing Rigoberto Gonzalez. Each poet provided listeners with something unique, something profound, something incendiary. Mlle. Loe’s visceral vocabulary and Mlle. Jama’s mastery of the figurative bolstered their co-readers like a warm tide. Msr. Mullany’s post-apocalyptic story of a man and his dog brought a tear to my eye, and Msr. Gonzalez used form to his advantage, sharing poems of lovely eloquence and rhythm.

I can barely wait for the next iteration of this tremendous reading series. Don’t miss it. In fact, if I hear that you have, I will give you a wedgie unlike anything you’ve seen before. A “wedgie,” for those who are unfamiliar with this colloquialism, is an unfortunate method of punishment directed at any and all creatures wearing pants. Humble beasts such as myself are ineligible.

 

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Saturday’s KGB Reading

 

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th St, New York

Another spectacle of literary prowess transpired this weekend at a storied artistic hideaway, the KGB Bar on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a watering hole which has suffered my presence on many an occasion these last few months. This Saturday was the Rutgers University at Newark MFA reading, featuring two fiction writers and a poet. All three demonstrated such zest and talent that my hackles stiffened and became straighter than the heavily-insured hairs clinging to David Schwimmer’s scalp (another notable LES denizen who was, for some reason, absent from the KGB event). david schwimmer yikes

Fiction writers Katie Reilly and Serena W. Lin wowed the crowd with stories of hypnosis and domestic violence, respectively. Reilly and Lin showed wildly different sensibilities, yet their words pleased the ears like none I’ve heard in recent memory. What lovely wordsmiths they are!

The cerebral poetry of Caitlyn Ferguson punctuated the evening’s fiction. Who said the erudite couldn’t indulge in the language of the unwashed masses? A few epithets never hurt anyone. Thank you, Mlle. Ferguson, for gently reminding us of this truism with your gilded verse.

Keep an eye on KGB Bar’s online calendar of events next month, dear reader, for the Rutgers MFA program’s last reading of the semester.

 

More Wonderful Fiction from the NYer

Tim Parks had a lovely story in the Dec. 8th issue of The New Yorker.

Reverend” is the tale of Thomas Sanders’s relationship with his late father, a fervent minister. A dogged persistence and a spirit of inquiry endear us to Thomas as he recalls “watershed” moments from his Nyer Dec 8Father’s life – spirited sermons, the “thrashings” he gave Thomas’s brother, the man’s “aura of vulnerability,” and a nervous breakdown that precipitated the family’s move from the country to North London when the narrator was ten. It is a stirringly human portrait of a “hot” personality coming into contact with other, “colder” family members. The measured pacing and introspective voice lend humility and suspense to the story as we see the Father and his wife speaking in tongues and leading a failed exorcism of the wayward older brother. In the end, we receive a beautiful image of Thomas and his father going for a swim in the “slow gray swell” of the ocean.

This piece reminded me a bit of an earlier story in The New Yorker called “Ordinary Sins,” by the 5 Under 35 writer, Kristin Valdez Quade. Both stories feature complicated clergyman who seem to have failed somehow in their pursuits. However, the priest in “Ordinary Sins” experiences a crisis of faith, while Thomas’s Father is a more conservative man who retains his faith all along.