#LitBeat: The Rumpus Loves New York
“You get to shine a light on these people that you love,” Stephen Elliott said to the crowd as he explained the purpose of the event. “Musicians, and authors, and comedians who I’m just really fond of. I’m really excited to introduce a lot of you to them.” Elliott, author and founder of the online magazine The Rumpus, hosted “The Rumpus Loves New York!” party last night at the Public Assembly in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Part reading, part concert, part comedy hour, it had something for almost everyone, either for devoted fans of The Rumpus or for those who, on a whim, stopped in for some after-work entertainment. The event had a road-show feeling to it, an opportunity for Elliott and his team to bring a bit of San Francisco—where they hold similar events monthly—to New York City.
Sam Lipsyte, author of the novel The Ask and other books, opened the evening with a short story. The packed and darkened Public Assembly’s front room listened and laughed with drinks in hand, while Lipsyte narrated a humorous love story, “a reunion of sorts” between a woman and a man with whom she had crushed on some years prior.
Though crowded, the Public Assembly’s intimate space afforded enough room to see and hear those onstage, including poet and actress Amber Tamblyn, who read, according to the description on her website, a series of “persona poems […] about child star actresses who grew up into virtual unknowns and died young,” and San Francisco-based comedian Janine Brito, who enchanted the crowd with lesbian slam poetry, and other bits. All night Isaac Fitzgerald, Rumpus managing editor, manned a table of books and CDs for sale, plus their popular“Write Like A Motherfucker” mugs.
As part of her “Writers Braver Than Me” column, Sari Botton interviewed poet and memoirist Nick Flynn, author of the critically-acclaimed memoirs Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Ticking is the Bomb. Topics included Being Flynn, the movie adaptation of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and the memoirist’s responsibility to other people in his work.
Expounding on his comments in an earlier interview that memoir is an “egoless genre,” Flynn said, “As we work with the [seemingly autobiographical] material, the stuff sort of transforms into the universal. And then, it has to push into this deeper realm of mystery. That seems to be the trajectory.”
Author Andrew McCarthy read a brief, hilarious nonfiction piece set in Berlin and, by way of a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, Amsterdam, which included Red Light District prostitutes and a chase for a small bag of cocaine. McCarthy was followed by Colson Whitehead, novelist and author of, most recently, Zone One. A fitting end for a New York-based literary event, Whitehead read the opening essay “City Limits” from his collection The Colossus of New York:
“Our streets are calendars containing who we were and who we will be next. We see ourselves in this city every day when we walk down the sidewalk and catch our reflections in store windows, seek ourselves in this city each time we reminisce about what was there fifteen, ten, forty years ago, because all our old places are proof that we were here. One day the city we built will be gone, and when it goes, we go. When the buildings fall, we topple, too.”
As an NYC neophyte, it seemed to me that The Rumpus really does love New York. And from my vantage at the back of the crowd, enjoying some of my favorite authors (and decent drinks) while rubbing elbows with fellow members of the literati, it looked as though New York loved The Rumpus right back.
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