(Clockwise from top left: Ryan Britt, Max Ross, Katie Bynum, and Mary Gaitskill. Photos courtesy of Brian Letwin via flickr.)
I usually write about the Franklin Park Reading Series BEFORE it happens, but this one was special enough to demand a review (I did one after my first visit, too). Going in, organizer Penina Roth had expressed concerns about the truncated space, which was admittedly strange: we entered through the newly-hewn tunnel via Dutch Boy, and the big room itself was neutered by a curtained wall that stretched that closed off the DJ booth and platform seating and then swung around to the bar. Despite this, though, the room worked--the curtains added a dramatic touch, and the new shape focused more attention on the readers. Also, it was packed! We sat on the floor, on laps, on the tables, on the edges of booths, and anywhere else there was room, which really drummed up the excitement inside. By the time Penina called us to order, we were basically hanging from the rafters.
It was a testament to all four readers that no one sought more comfortable environs during the show. Ryan Britt led off with an hysterical tale of post-apocalyptical Brooklyn, which Max Ross followed with an equally funny memoir of being set up by his grandmother with a (not-related-by-blood) cousin. After the break, Katie Bynum read a handful of wonderful poems that won serious praise from the night's headliner, Mary Gaitskill, who called them "really excellent" upon taking the stage.
Gaitskill herself showcased her dry wit and sharp tongue from the start, offering an uncollected story instead of one from her new book, Don't Cry, because, as she put it, "I'm sick to death of reading from it." What she did offer up was "The Astral Plane Nail and Waxing Salon," a too-close-for-comfort riff on the Lilith-Eve myth that starts out with a series of awkward, imagined letters from Ashley Dupre to Silda Spitzer before venturing into questions of mores and womanhood, which New York Magazine ran as "political fictions" last fall (full text of the story can be found here). The reading was mezmerizing, and afterwards, Gaitskill took the rare step of taking questions on the piece, which she described succinctly as "Lilith gives Eve a blowjob," and particularly on how she crafted it. No disrespect to any of the wonderful authors who've appeared before, but a lot of factors combined to make this month's series the best edition yet.