Laura Mayer is an Associate Producer at WNYC.
Authors Conjure Up 'Strange Places' in Readings at Happy Ending
Friday, March 23, 2012
The theme for the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series at Joe's Pub in March was Strange Places. Listen to the extraordinary — and absurd — environments that authors Jessica Anthony, Amelia Gray and Heidi Julavitz conjured up their readings.
Host and curator Amanda Stern was fighting through a migraine. Author Jessica Anthony had a chest cold. And half of the musical duo Kaiser Cartel, Courtney Kaiser, went into labor the day of the show, leaving Benjamin Cartel to perform on his own.
Regardless of these challenges, Anthony, along with the two authors Amelia Gray and Heidi Julavits, were in the house, reading from their work as well as performing their one-thing-they'd-never-performed-on-stage-before for the audience, which is one of Stern's requirements for participating in the series.
Gray, an author who funded her current book tour via the popular web site Kickstarter, read a story about a date gone horribly, viscerally, wrong: larynxes fall out of the daters' throats, arms land on the floor and "flesh is siphoned into a free standing grandfather clock" that's set on fire and rolled into the street.
After her reading, Gray arm-wrestled her editor on stage.
Anthony read from her first novel, "The Convalescent," about "a short, sickly Hungarian near-midget who sells meat out of a bus in Northern Virginia."
Afterwards, she taught the crowd how to use sign language to perform a popular pop tune.
Julavits, author and the co-editor of The Believer magazine, read what she calls "The Bachelor fan-fiction" — an imagined life of one of the bachelors who was kicked off of the show. She then performed rowdy rugby fight songs.
Happy Ending Music and Reading series host and curator Amanda Stern on headaches and humanity: "We are human beings. We grow people in our bodies. That's so weird. That's bizarre. So I think we actually live in the strangest place of all — where your head actually hurts. And you can't see what's causing it to hurt!"
Amelia Gray reads the inconspicuous opening of a very conspicuous story: "The woman and man are on a date! It is a date! The woman rubs a lipstick print off her water glass. The man turns his butter knife over and over and over and over. Everyone has to pee. What's the deal with dates?!"
Heidi Julavitz's Bachelor on how "so real" his connection to the bachelorette was: "When we were on our date on a half-finished skyscraper, which we summited with the help of a team of urban mountaineers, I said, 'This feels so real.' And Ashley had totally agreed."