Israel, China, and Afghanistan figured in works presented at the Happy Ending Music and Reading series at Joe’s Pub on October 6th.
But these far-flung tales were also about rites of passage for three young characters: a girl watching her family unit disintegrate in Mary-Beth Hughes' "Israel," a young boy coming to terms with a maimed parent in an excerpt from Brock Clarke’s novel, "Exley," and a girl soldier in China’s Red Army in Yiyun Li’s “Kindness.”
Happy Ending host Amanda Stern requires her authors to “take a risk on stage,” and Li’s gambit—to dress as her own character and step back into her own past—somehow enhanced the drama of her present: she was among the winners of the MacArthur “Genius” grants awarded earlier this month.
The evening’s musical guest was Lost in the Trees, a self-styled folk orchestra from North Carolina that filled the tiny stage at Joe’s Pub with an impressive array of instruments—chamber music kicked up a notch. The orchestra's fragile, eerie, edgy sound is reminiscent of some of the works by the Penguin Café Orchestra.
For an excerpt from the evening, click on the player above.
Mary-Beth Hughes, author of "Israel," on hands: "Dr. Dan Oveto was the most famous hand surgeon in Israel. He told us that hands were more fragile than butterflies."
Brock Clark, author of "Exley," on hospitals: "[The hall] was crowded, full of people who seemed normal enough except for one or two things that made them much different. It was like walking through a mall in a foreign country. I was happy to have a guide."
Yiyun Li, author of "Kindness," on being a soldier: "I have noticed that people, once put into the army, become two different species of animals…"