Bar hopper? Bookstore hopper? Today is the perfect time to bounce between both. The Downtown Literary Festival is back for a second year celebrating the longtime writerly culture and bookish sensibilities of Lower Manhattan. Housing Works Bookstore and McNally Jackson host a series of nontraditional reading events like literary cabaret and “The Greatest 3-minute Bad Apartment Stories,” along with archival explorations of New York lit journals BOMB, Guernica, The Paris Review, and more. This year, genre boundaries are pushed further with presentations on the comic book, the importance of music venues to New York scribes, and television’s increasing influence on the whole scene (with Slaughterhouse 90210’s expert mash-up artist Maris Kreizman). Check out author and booze aficionado Rosie Schaap’s custom book-and-cocktail pairings before heading to the afterparty at Von Bar.

Sun., April 13, 10 a.m., 2014


Picture This: Our 5 Can’t Miss Book Events Get Graphic

Tamara Shopsin
Spoonbill & Sugartown
Wednesday, 7:30pm, Free
Shopsin’s new memoir is arranged the way any harried artist’s journal might be–in fragments, drawings, photographs, and asides–and surprisingly all the more cohesive for it. Mumbai New York Scranton (Scribner) highlights the underlying complexity and humor behind the graphic designer’s line drawings, which are highly recognizable after frequent features in the Times and Newsweek. Here they tell the tale of Shopsin’s journey to India, the return home to her native New York City, and finally a venture back out to Scranton, Pennsylvania (yes, like on The Office).

She and husband/sidekick/photographer Jason Fulford–who have been known to collaborate on quirky couple-y projects that involve holding a sign that says “Please give us the finger” out a car window in order to compile an album of all-too-eager takers–document these travels with the same creative eye. Tonight she’ll take a break from pitching in at pop Kenny Shopsin’s new Essex Market stand to read and sign.

Francesco Pacifico
PowerHouse Arena
Thursday, 7pm, Free
The Paris Review referred to purity as “a gorgeously perverse subject for a contemporary novel.” Pacifico, an Italian writer who has experimented with abstinence-as-performance-art in real life, knows well that the main character of his English language debut, The Story of My Purity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), might come off as unorthodox–mainly for being so highly orthodox. His frustrated Roman protagonist is an ultra-conservative Christian determined to avoid the many temptations of his contemporary urban lifestyle. With the same critical humor as other notable Italo-American commentators–Beppe Severgnini comes to mind–Pacifico explores the modern incarnation of the strange, age-old phenomenon that is a Catholic sex life. He’ll read tonight at this book launch sponsored by n+1.

Nathaniel Rich. Nice socks.
Nathaniel Rich. Nice socks.

Nathaniel Rich
Book Court
Friday, 7pm, Free
One might describe Rich’s literary career as ridiculously, almost improbably–this is 2013 after all– successful. Just over the brim of 30 and he’s served as editor of the New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and authored a critically gushed-upon novel. But his next work of fiction, Odds Against Tomorrow ( Farrar, Straus and Giroux), is all about an imminent demise–of industry, New York City, civilization, everything really. In it a young mathematician works as a consultant calculating worst-case scenarios for large corporations, which drives him reasonably insane, until the apocalypse actually does strike and he’s suddenly at a great advantage. Here’s to making lemonade–really dystopic lemonade. Rich will read, sign, and take questions at this release party.

A Downtown Literary Festival
McNally Jackson and Housing Works Bookstore
Sunday, 10am, Free
Everybody’s flying off the bookshelf for this one. Happening simultaneously at two locations, “A Downtown Literary Festival” is all about highlighting the past and present book culture of New York with non-traditional events. Start off the day with Jami Attenberg, Rosie Schaap, Lev Grossman, Kristopher Jansma and a bunch more lit scenesters on a reading tour of lower Manhattan hosted by LitCrawlNYC, or opt for a four course “brunch” reading by DISH featuring notable downtown restauranteurs-turned-authors. Eileen Myles, Colm Toibin, and more will present a very appropriate lunchtime reading of Frank O’Hara and later Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth will share stories about their favorite New York concerts. Top off the evening with an after party at Pravda featuring Russian literature-themed cocktails. A Master and Margarita anyone?

Kat Von D
Barnes & Noble Union Square
Monday, 7pm, Free
As the poster selection at any Hot Topic store might suggest, ever since Kat Von D confirmed herself as choice pin-up of the rockabilly brood, the focus has been on her (pretty easily focusable) hotness more than anything else. But D’s mall punk-targeted memoirs are worth a look, if not because she was once the hippest person on TLC, then because she really is a skilled designer at the core of it all. The LA Ink star’s newest book Go Big Or Go Home (HarperCollins) takes a look back at her early tattoos for the average Joe, or what was as average as the Joes ever got in LA. There’s still some celebrity work mixed in–we especially like Bobcat Goldthwait’s Ed Wood portrait–but the subject matter here is more personal. Tonight she’ll make an appearance and talk about some memorable commissions.


The Good Book: 5 Great Readings This Week

Jonathan Lethem and Jessica Hagedorn
Greenlight Bookstore
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., free
A quick word on Jonathan Lethem–he’s awesome. That’s it. Because this guy is one of our favorite native sons. The author of Motherless Brooklyn (Vintage) and The Fortress of Solitude (Vintage) has the ability to pogo from sci-fi to memoir to detective fiction to hipster lit and back again, but he’s always been unshakably New York, in subject matter, support for Occupy Wall Street, outspokeness against the corporate renaming of Shea Stadium, etc. In September he’s slated to release his next novel, Dissident Gardens (Random House), a family epic set in Queens, but tonight he’ll talk with Long Island University professor and author Jessica Hagedorn about past work and his connection to Brooklyn.

M. Henderson Ellis and Rosie Schaap
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
Wednesday, 7 p.m., free
It would seem absurd to host these authors anywhere but a rowdy Czech beer hall. In Ellis’s first novel, Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Cafe (Random House), a Chicago man is fired for being “too passionate” about his job as a barista at a coffee chain, kickstarting a quixotic journey through newly post-communist Prague. Schaap’s travels, on the other hand, are booze-soaked rather than coffee-fueled. In her memoir Drinking With Men (Riverhead), she recounts a childhood spent in the bar car of a train, telling passengers’ fortunes in exchange for beer. Her love letter to pub culture highlights the sense of community that barrooms (and, we’ll wager, also the alcohol) create among strangers. Toast them with a pint at this night of readings.

“Mary MacLane, In Conversation”

Book Court
Wednesday, 7 p.m., free
You may not have heard the name Mary MacLane before, unless you’re into obscurist memoirs or maybe a big fan of Manitoba province like yours truly. But the Canadian-born, American-relocated writer has been called our country’s first blogger, despite the fact that she was working in the late 19th century. Her racy lifestyle and scandalous autobiographies gained her 50 Shades-level fame at age 19–think a slightly older, female Rimbaud–and by 1917 she was filming and starring in the Warhol-esque picture Men Who Have Made Love To Me. A mysterious young death added to the scandal before her memory and her work fell into the margins. Tonight author Emily Gould (And The Heart Says Whatever, Free Press), playwright Normandy Sherwood, and scholar Kara Jesella will discuss MacLane’s 1902 autobiography I Await the Devil’s Coming (Melville House), and how she paved the way for the realist confessional style.

Demetri Martin
Barnes & Noble Union Square
Thursday, 7 p.m., free
Somewhere, we imagine a retirement home for indie comedians–Reggie Watts, Kristen Schaal, and Aziz Ansari all one day sitting around a table playing the funniest game of dominoes ever. For a second, we feared Demetri Martin was already there, but thankfully he’s back with Point Your Face At This (Grand Central Publishing), a new collection of drawings. As always, his pictures are crude in rendering but pack a big punch to the wits, and we’ve got to love a comedian who traffics in Wittgensteinian antinomy doodles (which, by the way, are also a barrel of laughs). Ah…if only Demetri was sitting next to us in every lecture we’ve ever had. Tonight we can imagine as he reads and previews his sketches.

Douglass Rushkoff and Rachel Rosenfelt
McNally Jackson
Thursday, 7 p.m., free
Haven actually been called a “Luddite” in two different conversations in two different bars (always in an accusatory way, why?) we’re going to be careful about how strongly we recommend this. But in his new book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Current), theorist Douglass Rushkoff makes some good points about the dicey ethos of real time technology, hyperspeed culture, fragmentation, and pretty much how everything is just happening too fast and for the love of god slow down please. He introduces his theory of “presentism,” basically an -ism ending word for how the largely tech-related immediacy of everything in our lives–conversations, media, ordering food–might have some less than stellar effects on our psychological and physical selves. Especially the ordering food part. He’ll chat–in person, machine free–with Rachel Rosenfelt, founder and editor of The New Inquiry. There’s no time like the present.