11 December 2008

The pavement of famous molecules

I've been in New York City since last Friday.

Some of what I've been up to.

Friday: An awful lot of wandering, followed by dropping in at a book launch at Idlewild Books, a pretty interesting indie shop. The launch was for Ben Greenman's fiction publication Correspondences, a gorgeous, fold-out "book" containing four stories, published by Hotel St. George Press. I didn't buy a copy, because it costs $50 and because while I enjoyed the reading, I wasn't knocked out. Idlewild is a gorgeous store, a little uppercrust, and with an interesting premise: the shelves are divided by country, so that you get a bunch of travel books first for, say, France, and then you get a bunch of novels (mostly) by French authors. The Canada shelf was right at the floor, so it was hard to see, but the dozen of so books included Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies and ... Will Ferguson? Seems a little random. One woman walked into the store and said, "This place is so FSG!" Later on, I went to the KGB bar, for a party for the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, which was crammed with people I didn't know, except for Mike Spry, from Montreal, who I finally got to speak with at some length. What a neat guy. And he introduced me to Pasha Malla, whose poetry book I like an awful lot. Then I returned to feeling alienated and pathetic.

Saturday: The Indie & Small Press Book Fair all day at the glorious New York Center for Independent Presses. Four floors of indie publishers, from the literary to the Hollywood gossip. It was an impressive range of presses, but I was disappointed by so many of the absences: Adventures in Poetry, Wave Books, Dalkey Archive.... I was there representing Anvil Press, who let me use part of the table for Proper Tales. Sales were slow, with the books discounted at about 25% off, but it was fun and I met lots of neat people. The highlight for me was perhaps seeing all the Archipelago Books together: that's a small press dedicated to translations, run out of Brooklyn by Jill Schoolman. She's published two of Anne McLean's Cortazar translations. In the evening, I took the subway up to Columbia U and read for the Ugly Fish student group in the Post-Crypt (a freaky little basement crypt; perhaps the neatest venue I've ever read in) of St. Paul's Chapel. Each time I've come to NYC, I've tried to get a reading and it's been impossible: oh, everything's booked so far in advance blah blah blah. But this time I was offered the reading on Friday and there I was on Saturday. Really nice crowd: mostly an open mic for creative writing students and profs, and they offered me a 20-minute set.

Sunday: The second and last day of the fair. I reduced the prices on the Anvil titles and stuff moved pretty well. There was a lot of interest: I gotta say, Anvil's books were some of the nicest at the fair. Other highlights for me: Hotel St. George Press with their four titles to date, and Turtle Point Press. Also was happy to be introduced to McPherson, who are publishing a newly translated novel by Sergio Ramírez this spring. ¡Sandinista! In the evening, a trip to St. Mark's, where there was a reading of a filmscript by Tony Torn based on Richard Hell's excellent novel Godlike. Pretty fun experience!

Monday: Fantastic afternoon at the MoMA. So goddamn inspiring. Bumped into Simon Pettet in the lobby. Saw some amazing art. I loved the Barnett Newman pieces. Wrote down a list of other stuff I liked, but god knows where it is.

Tuesday: Moved to a great little hotel in the East Village. A morning with my friend Kate from London, U.K., who I also bumped into at the MoMA the day before. We went to the International Center of Photography, and that was incredible too. Most thrilling were Susan Meiselas's photos of revolutionary Nicaragua, along with video interviews shot when she went back 20 years later to find the people she'd photographed. Her show of Kurdistan photos was also amazing. There was, too, a Cornell Capa show that included some older Nicaragua photos, as well as some photos of workers in Guatemala during the reign of the International Fruit Company. In the evening, went to a reading at Dixon Place that left me mostly underwhelmed, except for a novelist named Magdalena Zurawski, whose book The Bruise sounds fantastic. MZ's biz card reads "Minor American Writer." Outside the reading, I bumped into Anselm Berrigan, but kept confusing him with other people. What a fucking idiot I am. Inside, CAConrad had caught me sleeping during the reading.

Wednesday: An afternoon with Larry Fagin, who told me everything I need to know about poetry. Really. He's been very generous with his time whenever I've come down here. An evening reading at the Cornelia Street Cafe featured four old guys, including the one I'd come to see, Bill Zavatsky. It was a thrill to meet him: nice guy! He read two works, one long and one short, about his father. The long one was a sort of "I Remember," but consisting entirely of phrases and jokes and songs his late father uttered. It was a pretty angry piece mostly. In a nuanced kind of way. Followed by my millionth visit to St. Mark's Bookshop and a great French movie, Tell No One.

It's been raining most the week. It's raining now. I've written a couple of poems. This city drives me crazy and makes me anxious because I don't want to waste a second. But it's also pretty damn inspiring.

Over and out.


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