Downtown Literary Festival
World Book Night
Lynn Nottage and Stephen Guirgis
The next three months sees a wide variety spring book events. Punk legend Richard Hell makes two appearances to discuss and read from his autobiography for those who want to relive, or vicariously experience, the gritty New York of old. Gary Shteyngart (Super Sad True Love Story) and Etgar Keret debut new works at the Selected Shorts series, while the minds behind the Broadway showThe Motherfucker with the Hat and the Pulitzer Prize—winning Ruined share pieces of their work.
RECOMMENDED: Find more of the best things to do in spring
Lipsyte's acidic and pitch-black satires keep getting better—The Ask, about a middle-aged failure called Milo, was one of the best books of 2010. His new collection, The Fun Parts, contains many of the short stories he's published in The New Yorker and elsewhere, and exhibits the crackling dialogue and casually misanthropic messes he’s so good at crafting.
Thalia Book Club: Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, with Jennifer Egan, Siri Hustvedt and Margot Livesey
Three well-regarded novelists, who have led lively discussions of Middlemarch and Anna Karenina for this series, guide the crowd in an analysis of an early American classic.
The former Washington Post and New Yorker editor’s new nonfiction, an in-depth look at the relationship between an American Vice President and his boss, already has people talking. Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage depicts a young and unsure Nixon seeking approval from great former war hero Eisenhower (who never quite invests or believes in his veep). Since Frank is also a published novelist, his interest in character motivation runs alongside the historical record.
In Moth Smoke, this Pakistani author told the story of a banker’s fall from grace; in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, an American immigrant came to resent his adopted home. Hamid's propulsive and formally playful prose continues in the new How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the tale of a rural boy who moves to a nameless metropolis and becomes a wealthy businessman, all while pining after one woman.
Punk legend Richard Hell—cofounder of Television, the Heartbreakers and bandleader behind Richard Hell and the Voidoids—pours his heart out in a memoir (I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp) about rising alongside Patti Smith and the Ramones at CBGBs, opening for the Clash and his descent into drug addiction. The prose is candid and straightforward, without much of the self-serving nostalgia that easily could have accompanied such a trip.
Though we at TONY mourn Brooklyn boy Jonathan Lethem’s departure to sunnier climes, there’ll still be lit and local color to enjoy as the fiction writer and essayist sits down with another New York novelist, Jessica Hagedorn. Lethem’s latest forays—the obsessive 33 1/3 volume about Talking Heads’ Fear of Music; essay collection The Ecstasy of Influence; and elegiac, loopy novel Chronic City—should prove a nice preamble for talk of this fall’s expected volume, Dissident Gardens.
Poets House welcomes a long list of Native American poets to NYC for a weekend of readings, conversations and panels about the current state of indigenous verse in the U.S. Storytelling and innovation will be addressed alongside politics; attendees include dg nanouk okpik, Cedar Sigo, Santee Frazier, LeAnne Howe and the great Joy Harjo, whose swirling memoir of her upbringing, Crazy Brave, was published last year.
Since Granta published Selasi’s short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls” in 2011, there has been much anticipation for more of this writer’s work. This spring sees the publication of her first full-length novel, Ghana Must Go. The tale explores more of the author’s Nigerian and Ghanaian heritage, tracing the slow dissolution of a family after the death of its patriarch; Selasi's lyrical storytelling is ravishing, even as it wanders through difficult places.
An author who famously started his career after being stranded in Chicago by the outbreak of war in his native Sarajevo, Aleksandar Hemon (The Lazarus Project, Love and Obstacles) regularly contends with the immigrant experience and tracing the path back to the old country. His new volume, The Book of My Lives, takes a new tack into the realm of nonfiction; it looks at family, home and growing up in a way that's both personal and political.
For the first time, McNally Jackson Books and Housing Works Bookstore team up to present a day of nontraditional events reflecting their collective vision of the downtown scene. The individual happenings are still taking shape, but they’ll include a reading of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, a literary walking tour of the area and a lecture pairing books with a proper Scotch. Participants include Lapham’s Quarterly and Tumblr, and the whole day will wrap up with wine and chatting at Housing Works.