“If I get into any kind of space where I’m trying to extend a narrative, or kind of accrue pages, the energy goes out,” George Saunders said at his book launch last night in Brooklyn, in response to a question about whether he will write a novel. “So I think of my stories as kind of like those little toys and you wind ’em up and put it on the floor and it goes under the couch. That’s kind of like an aesthetic model. So, I think what we have to do is petition for the definition of novel to come down a little, you know: 17 pages, that’s a good number”.(9)
"It is a sequel in that we’re looking at the life of Precious’s child, Abdul Jones, who is now an AIDS orphan," the author Sapphire said. "And it is a sequel in a sense that it continues to look at the profound and devastating effect of AIDS on the African-American community."
The more than 160 people who participated in the event read 10 minutes each over a 25-hour period. Participants ranged from the famous—actor Paul Dano kicked things off with the instantly recognizable, “Call me Ishmael”; author and This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell read at Housing Works on Saturday morning; authors Rick Moody and Jonathan Ames read at Molasses Books later the same day—to the lesser-known, including friends of the organizers, and Moby-Dick enthusiasts who had emailed or tweeted at Bullock and Bresnick, hoping to be included.(1)
But the show had to go on, and the event, part of a monthly series put on jointly by Congregation Beth Elohim and local indie The Community Bookstore, was a chance for many to gather and attempt to return to some sense of normalcy. The event, which promised DeLillo in conversation with Auster, as well as an introduction by another literary bigwig, Jonathan Safran Foer, was filled with more than 100 people. It was a refreshingly hightone event in a neighborhood that usually boasts more modest fare. And there was no exclusivity; everyone who could make it out, it seemed, got a seat.
“Years ago I started traveling as a sort of reaction to all the movies I was in.,” he said. “I would run away because I found in my early 20s, all that sorta crazy, wondrous attention was in some ways very odd. I had a strange relationship to success in that I really desired it and wanted it, and on the one hand I was apprehensive about it and pushed away from it … so I started traveling the world and through that began to grow up in a way that I didn't ever need to when I was doing movies. And it changed my life.”
What then ultimately brought her back to fiction, she was asked. “There are little sparks of something like actual life,” she said after a deliberative pause, “and I don’t think an essay could ever create that friction, that feeling of being alive. And when you’re a kid, that’s why you read, and some people forget that, but for me that feeling of the fake-real, the almost-real, I get pleasure from thinking I could do that.”
“The system that I've developed, it's constantly revealing itself to the next step,” he said, “The waves happened because my kid was surfing. The bombs happened because 9/11 happened and my art dealer Helene sent me a photograph ... that came out of the printers upside down so instead of the towers and the smoke, it was the smoke and then the towers and it looked just like a bomb. And then my youngest son looks at it and … he says it's a hurricane. Wow. He thinks it's nature, and it's man trying to be god, and all of a sudden through things that are in the world or in my life a new series happened. The doors opened.”
David Daley, executive editor of Salon and creator of the fiction website Five Chapters, moderated the conversation between Ringwald and Emma Straub, Book Court bookseller and author of the recently released novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. The three are friends—Ringwald and Straub were brought together by Daley, who published Straub’s debut story collection, Other People We Married. He sent it to Ringwald, whom he’d known for years, thinking she’d like it; she did and, as Straub put it, “Then my heart exploded with love”—and during the conversation, it showed.
Perhaps because Cohen has steadily built a reputation, rather than bursting onto the scene, the launch was a casual affair. More a gathering of friends—Cohen seemed to know almost everyone present personally—than the overstuffed bash one would expect for the author of a book feted just last week in the New York Times by Dwight Garner.
“My mom is half deaf and watched Fox News which means she gets half [of] half the truth. And then she starts fighting with you, so she would call me and say, ‘Can black people get citrus-cell anemia? And I’m like 'Citrus-cell anemia is not a thing,'"
Castoro recently hired Cat Marnell to write the column “Amphetamine Logic,” which has thus far, as its name suggests, been about Marnell’s struggles with drug abuse. He’s irritated that the question of why he hired her keeps coming up. “The motivation is that she's a great writer,” Castoro said. He noted, correctly, that Marnell is hardly the first writer to write about drugs and debauchery; “maybe,” he posited, “the reason people are so interested in it right now is because everyone else is fucking boring. Or most people. Not everyone.” Who isn’t boring? “Whoever writes for Vice.”(1)
“I can’t say I’m proud of everywhere I’ve ever been… or anyone I’ve ever done, “Febos continued, the "anyone" another sly punchline, “but I don’t have a lot of shame about it.” In celebration of Pride Week, Febos was moderating a reading featuring fellow queer writers—Katrina Del Mar, Kelli Dunham, Pamela Sneed, Rachel M. Simon, Ariel Levy, Shelly Oria and Laurie Weeks.
“It’s really interesting to have your characters tell you that you did it wrong,” Heti said, acknowledging Williamson’s collaboration on the book. “It’s really useful.” Heti read from her book’s prologue. The line “these are my fucking contemporaries!” earned the biggest laugh, from an audience of Heti’s contemporaries. “Maybe I’ll answer a few questions and then we’ll go back to lining up for beers,” Heti said after she had finished. The first question, alas, was not a question; it was a command to “talk more about” the difficulty of male-female relationships.
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe gets a literary send-off from Susan Sheehan, Thomas Beller at the Strand
"600 million dollars has been put into the park to make it safe, to make it the most beautiful park in the world," Benepe said. "It’s now a park that you can walk through at midnight and feel perfectly safe. If you had said that thirty years ago they would have said ‘What drugs are you on? Or what drugs do you want to buy?’ Now, of course, it’s glorious."
“I’ve never seen a human being look at paintings longer than Siri,” Auster told the Strand Books audience proudly. He recalled a time at the Prado museum when Hustvedt examined Francisco de Goya’s painting The Third of May for hours. She stared at it for so long, in fact, that she even managed to make art history. “I saw this foggy but present image of a—probably Goya’s face—in the canvas itself,” Hustvedt explained to the audience. “I wrote about it, and it turned out that this had never been seen before…. What’s most important isn’t that I found this face. It’s that most people—and so many people working in art, this is all they do—don’t actually look all that deeply at the paintings.”