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Oxymoron: Frustration at Happy Ending

Friday, November 11, 2011

Paul La Farge reading from his new novel “Luminous Airplanes” at Joe's Pub. Paul La Farge reading from his new novel “Luminous Airplanes” at Joe's Pub. (Photo: Gillian Crosson, courtesy of Happy Ending Music & Reading series)

With the three-month wait for the re-opening of newly renovated Joe’s Pub over at last, you’d think there would be cause for celebration. But Happy Ending Music & Reading series host and curator Amanda Stern decided on “frustration” as the theme of her series opener, inviting authors Seth Fried, Jesse Ball, and Paul La Farge to vent, with plangent musical guest Anni Rossi adding the low notes.

Actually there was little venting, as the writers’ selections all looked at the idea of “frustration” obliquely.

Seth Fried’s story, for all it was called “The Great Frustration,” invited us into a kind of ur-Eden in which all the animals are plagued by ambivalence about their own nature, and anxious inertia.

Jesse Ball presented himself as a sort of living trope; in the program bio and Stern’s introduction he was described as a recently rediscovered “American writer from the '30s, '40s, and '50s.” In fact, Ball, born in 1978, bristles with decidedly contemporary sesquipedalian irony, as in the excerpt here, describing characters in a military parade viewed by a mysterious onlooker. 

By contrast, Paul La Farge, although only slightly older, seems to be the grand old man of lost causes, reading from his new novel “Luminous Airplanes” a segment in which his protagonist remembers attending a spectacularly unsuccessful rally.

For an excerpt from the evening, click on the player above.

Bon Mots

Fried on losing touch: "Why when the peacock waddles past should the lion imagine a beautiful explosion of feathers?"

Ball on the parade passing by: "That is always the decision one is pressed to make — do I join the parade, or not? In certain cases the decision is easy, in others, not so."

La Farge on waiting in Dolores Park: "After all the rain we had this winter, the grass shone emerald, like a patch of wet Scotland set out to dry, here on the coast.”

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