Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Night at Pete’s Candy Store: Jami Attenberg & Jim Shepard

This was posted to Richard Grayson's MySpace blog on Thursday, January 24, 2008:

Thursday Night at Pete’s Candy Store: Jami Attenberg & Jim Shepard

Still pining somewhat for Arizona's milder weather -- three Thursdays ago, Mesa was the warmest spot in the USA and I was tooling around town doing errands in an Arizona Central College T-shirt and shorts -- I nevertheless braved Brooklyn's winter weather tonight to walk up four blocks on Lorimer Street to Pete's Candy Store for the first of their spring (ha!) series of biweekly readings in their back room.

Jami Attenberg was the first reader. Having just come back from a grueling book tour of the West Coast, she was evicted from her Williamsburg building along with lots of other residents in no way responsible for the illegal matzoh factory in the basement, and I marveled at her ability to run last night's reading at the Boxcar Lounge and then perform with such aplomb again tonight.

This was a more intimate, comfy scene and I managed to get a seat near the front. Jami read, not from her new novel The Kept Man or her great short story collection, Instant Love, but a story that's going to appear in a new anthology edited by Stephen Elliott titled Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica.

The story, "Victory Gardens," takes place in 2033, when cars have been made illegal, by a guy whose high school girlfriend left him for a soldier about to go off to fight one of the four wars America has recently started, at a time when young people have to have sex in some of the few bushes left in a crazy wasteland. The story was funny, tender, and wry.

Jim Shepard read what I think is one of this master fictioneer's best stories, "Pleasure Boating in Lituya Bay," which you can enjoy for yourself here.

From Jim's collection Like You'd Understand Anyway, in his inimitable voice, "Pleasure Boating" moves from his usual attention-must-be-paid opening sentence as it juxtaposes the natural disaster of an Alaskan tidal wave with the subtler diaster of a marriage in desperate straits. Jim reads in a deadpan that highlights both the humor and poignancy of his characters' situations.

It was a real pleasure to hear both Jami and Jim tonight. And well worth a lot more than a four-block walk in the cold.

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