Bon Voyage: Our Five Book Events Worth the Trip


Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson
The Strand
Tonight, 7pm, $10
Marriage is a tricky subject in film. This is probably because unlike, say, the central themes of Citizen Kane or many of the Terminators, the “marriage movie” concerns a topic that’s close to what many viewers either have, or will experience first hand, which is to say, touchy. And so then we get things like Bride Wars. In her new book, I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies (Knopf),  film historian Jeanine Basinger explores just how it became common place to have to see Kate Hudson and (Oscar winner!) Anne Hathaway extend manicured Wolverine nails, shredding each others’ gowns to pieces in an alter dust-up. She traces cinematic marriage representations from Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy to Coach and his wife in Friday Night Lights, speculating about the ways Hollywood effects real life companionship. Basinger will read and talk film with social historian Sam Wesson.

Matthew Goodman
Barnes & Noble 86th & Lexington
Tonight, 7pm, Free
Those who imagine the prototypical New York newspaperman as scrappy and gruff and, namely, a man, are probably forgetting about Elizabeth Bisland and Nellie Bly. In 1889, at a time when most women couldn’t travel let alone manage to walk down the street without succumbing to a swoon, these two rival reporters challenged each other to a race around the world, determined to beat the record suggested by Jules Verne in his then-wildly popular new story. Bisland, a highly educated Southern aristocrat set off west by train, while Bly, a (comparatively) hardened investigator from Pennsylvania coal country hopped ship across the Atlantic. Brooklynite Matthew Goodman chronicles their travels in Eighty Days (Random House), his new pop history that–oddly for an account of two fact-committed journalists–editorializes the hell out of just about everything. But it’s all for the better with a story so sensationalist that it begs to be a novel. So eat/pray/love your heart out, Elizabeth Gilbert. Goodman will read and discuss tonight.

Domenica Ruta and Emma Straub
Greenlight Bookstore
Tonight, 7:30pm, Free
Gary Shteyngart, a fellow author familiar with leaving home, complements Domenica Ruta on haven “done something that every artist with a failed family must do: She has created herself.” After growing up in Danvers–one of the less-quaint suburbs of the Greater Boston Area–with a drug-addicted mother in a broken home, this type of self-invention-despite-or-maybe-even-because-of crappy circumstances is the universal that makes Ruta’s otherwise intensely personal memoir relatable. With or With Out You (Spiegel & Grau) is a kind of gritty independence narrative that puts every “problem” ever represented on Girls to head-hanging shame. Ruta describes her struggle with the decision to cut ties with her charismatic mother, whom she loves, in order to pursue a life outside the edicts of drugs and their various dealers. She will chat with Brooklyn literary sweetheart Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures (Riverhead) at this book launch.

Kate Hosford
McNally Jackson
Saturday, 11:30am, Free
We don’t cover children’s literature very often, but we’ve got to love it when somebody gives the kids some credit. Not since Maurice Sendak’s We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy–a nursery rhyme about the ’90s AIDS crisis and the graphic horrors of street life–has something so clearly been designed to give precocious little heads some precocious little headaches. Hosford’s new storybook, Infinity and Me (Carolrhoda Books), is intended for children who suffer from adorable, mini existential crises or any kind of vertiginous me-in-relation-to-the-universe anxiety. One night Uma, the grade school heroine, undergoes an Extreme Makeover: Brain Edition as she stares up at the stars. Throughout the story, she tries to reconcile the idea of infinity in all its conceptual forms, giving way to a whole lot of illustrations featuring troubled-looking children, tiny brows furrowed as they contemplate some of the more hair-raising notions of abstract mathematics. There’s also an impressive representation of the whole Kantian debacle about a pretemporal void versus, like, your standard lemniscate-shaped theory of an elapsing infinity–portrayed mostly in pictures and text at a third-grade reading level, of course. An elementary school kid that Hosford, a social worker and teacher, interviewed as part of her research described infinity as “A cat that eats forever and never needs to use the bathroom.” We think that pretty much sums it up. Hosford will read, sign, and take questions.

Sam Lipsyte
Book Court
Tuesday, 7pm, Free
One of those little praise quotations on the jacket of Lipsyte’s new story collection The Fun Parts (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)–you know, the ones that are rarely even referring to the novel in question anyway–states “Everybody should read Sam Lipsyte.” Well thank you, Time. While normally we would cringe a bit at this type of intended mass-market appeal, we think it’s high time Lipsyte flew out of the indie pidgeonhole. Fun Parts employs many of the same tactics of all your best post-war, post-television comedic fiction. It’s got the rapid, but also spot-on rhythmic dialogue of–and this is gut-sourced free association here–John Kennedy Toole, with something of Günter Grass’s sheer joy in absurd physical grotesquerie (re: high-minded shit jokes). The 13 shorts tend to be about unsavory topics like obesity, the apocalypse, and high school in New Jersey. They’re dark, but then intensely alive-feeling, that is, if being alive means being really gross and emotionally spastic all the time–which it does. Join Lipsyte for a reading, Q&A, and signing at the release party.