Thursday, February 15, 2007

New York Brain Terrain reviews Richard Grayson's AND TO THINK THAT HE KISSED HIM ON LORIMER STREET

Michelle Lin reviews Richard Grayson's And to Think That He Kissed Him on Lorimer Street at New York Brain Terrain on February 15, 2007:

I was a frequent peruser of the Daily Cal , the school newspaper, and The Heuristic Squelch, the campus humor magazine, during my first two years in college. Squelch was often too raunchy and perverted for my tastes, but I loved their fake news round-ups and the letters from the editor. One particular letter from the editor that stands out in my mind is the one addressed to the freshman in fall 2000: "College," the editor opined, "is like a hypercolor t-shirt. It starts out with a brilliant pink burst of excitement, before slowly fading away to a blur of resentment and apathy." The editor also instructed the freshmen, "If you're one of those students who asks questions in lecture every day, just remember, there's a special circle in hell for you people."

Richard Grayson's recent collection of short stories reminds me of The Heuristic Squelch, both in its smart humor and its ability to induce belly-aching laughs. Composed alternately of semi-autobiographical pieces and humorous shorts, Grayson weaves a picture of Brooklyn (and New York) that is rarely seen in New York literature nowadays.

A native of Canarsie himself, Grayson's characters inhabit the outlying middle-class neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens: Flatbush, the Rockaways, Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach, Canarsie, and the like. His characters are wonderfully diverse, much like the city itself, ethnic, immigrants, LGBT--you'll not find a single straight upper-class WASP in the book (not that there's anything wrong with that). The strengths of this book, I felt, lay in its humorous shorts.

A particular one that stands out in my mind is "Diary of a Brooklyn Cyclones Hot Dog," a tale of a lesbian Uzbekistani teen whose job is to dress up as Nathan's Relish Hot Dog. During each game, there is a race between Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish, and, much like the Trix Rabbit who never gets to eat Trix, Relish is never allowed to finish first in the race. However, like the Trix Rabbit, Relish starts out every race absolutely determined not to finish last, but some unfortunate incident befalls her each time.

The semi-autobiographical short stories, while well-written, were a bit too confessional for my tastes; however, they are still interesting reads. Grayson's handling of his characters' sexuality is deft and never overbearing. Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Saturday Night on the Lower East Side: Words + Music with Gayle Brandeis & Kelley McRae at Bluestockings

This was posted to Richard Grayson's MySpace blog on February 7, 2007:

Great reading and performance at Bluestockings

This evening I went to one of my favorite bookstores, Bluestockings on the Lower East Side. The incredibly cool publicist Lauren Cerand (I've been to eight or nine events she's done, and every one has been terrific -- I wish I could afford her services myself!) had told me about WORDS + MUSIC, featuring Gayle Brandeis, an acquaintance I met on the website Readerville, reading from Self Storage, her new novel.

The book has gotten great reviews, and Gayle read an early section of the novel, dealing with an auction for the contents of abandoned self-storage units. The descriptions were so evocative, I am really looking forward to reading Self Storage.

The music for the evening was provided by Kelley McRae. I liked her "Johnny Cash" song and also a new song, "It's Another Beautiful Day," which seemed to be about the South Williamsburg neighborhood. You should check out Kelley's music, too.

I took the First Avenue bus to 14th Street, and after buying some groceries, went to get the L train home to Brooklyn. I go to the front so I can get out of the Lorimer Street exit on the Lorimer Street stop (most people get off at Union Avenue).

I'm at this station a lot, and I always seem to see, where I like to stand, by where the second car of the train will stop, a certain rodent. Nobody else was around, and as I was getting to my usual waiting place, I found myself saying (aloud -- yes), "Where is my rat friend?"

At that precise moment, the rat came out of the hole in the wall beside me and scurried down the end of the platform into another hole.

Okay, maybe it's a bunch of different rats. But I like to think I've been seeing the same guy for months.