A more predictable personality than Happy Ending Music and Reading series host and curator Amanda Stern would have programmed her evening at Joe’s Pub around love stories, given that it fell two days after Valentine’s Day. Instead, Stern offered an evening of works about loss and memory.
She began by reading her own obituary, written by her for the occasion, which glumly concluded that her young adult novelist alter ego, Fiona Rosenbloom, led a more successful life than she.
Next, singer songwriter Jennifer O’Connor sang “How I Will Get By,” a vibrant song about—well, loss.
Stern’s two literary guests, Jessica Hagedorn and Sarah Braunstein, read excerpts from novels that set loss in a public context.
Hagedorn’s “Toxicology” begins with the widely publicized death of a hot young actor, and is reminiscent of the furor surrounding the death of Heath Ledger in 2008. Celebrity passings and their attendant media circuses are viewed with some cynicism by Hagedorn, but she showed her soft side in fulfilling the second half of her evening’s assignment. Stern requires her authors to “take a risk on stage,” and Hagedorn and her musical collaborator Mark Bennett did just that, by serenading his dog Cassius with a mournful tune by Antônio Carlos Jobim.
Sarah Braunstein read from her debut novel, which has the unsettling title “The Sweet Relief of Missing Children,” a section in which a young mother, on an outing to a local carnival, reflects on the loss of sexual and emotional freedom that inevitably comes with marriage and maternity.
Click on the link above to hear some excerpts from the evening.
Happy Ending Music and Reading series host and curator Amanda Stern on obituaries: "In honor of memory, I started writing my obituary, because I thought it would be fun—and you know what? It’s not. 'Amanda Stern died today from an acute case of not living up to her potential.'"
Singer songwriter Jennifer O’Connor on sad, sad songs: "When Amanda told me tonight’s theme was 'memory and loss,' I was kinda psyched, ‘cause that pretty much sums up every song I’ve ever written."
Jessica Hagedorn, author of “Toxicology,” on fame and dying young: “There was no reason for her to cry. People like Romeo Byron messed up and died young all the time. It came with the territory.”
Sarah Braunstein, author of “The Sweet Relief of Missing Children,” on carnivals: “It was a full world, a city, its own civilization, but it was temporary. It would be gone three days from now. This was a thrill Judith didn’t know where to keep in her body.”