It’s nearly autumn again, and that means it’s nearly time for the old New Yorker Festival, every middle-aged Manhattanite couple’s favorite weekend. Since I can’t go, I’ll be living vicariously through you, genial reader.
This year’s lineup is once again a cold and terrifying thing, an unapologetic cavalcade of literary luminaries that never fails to remind me just how much reading I really ought to be doing. Let’s start with Friday night.
Here we find a quiet evening of “paired readings by New Yorker fiction writers” — certainly a lovely, low-key way to begin the evening. But wait! In the rich tradition of the New Yorker dance party (that was sarcasm; I never went (it was always 21+!) but I’m sure it was wack. Or should I say sour — LIKE THOSE DAMN GRAPES THAT I CAN’T REACH!), Sasha Frere-Jones (along with Kelefa Sanneh, this year) has curated a concert that will allow pseudo-intellectual hipsters to say they went to the New Yorker festival without having to pay $25 to watch people talk for a couple of hours. Dirty Projectors, House of Ladosha, Jubilee and Liturgy are on the bill; I’ve seen DPs and Jubilee and can recommend them (especially after the brilliant Bitte Orca (that means Please Orca!)), but I know nothing about the other two except that House of Ladosha are described by TNY Web site as a “dark-crunk collective,” and any band who causes that phrase to be published on the New Yorker Web site deserves at least a modicum of respect, no matter what their music ends up sounding like. I wonder what E.B. White would think about dark crunk.
The Friday night paired readings are all at either 7 p.m. or 9:30 p.m., which presumable means that it will be possible to attend two (but not if they’re both at the same time, man!). So let’s look at each group separately.
The 7 p.m. group is, unsurprisingly, strong. Jonathan Franzen and T. Coraghessan Boyle are a couple of names that jump out at me as having had really strong stories in TNY. And then there’s Salman Rushdie, whom I refuse to read on account of the fact that he looks really smug all the time and doesn’t deserve to have been married to Padma Lakshmi, from Top Chef. Forget about him. If I had to pick one pairing, I’d go with Boyle and Mary Gaitskill.
The night owl group is also awfully strong, with Junot Díaz, Jonathan Lethem, Colson Whitehead and Gary Shteyngart as particular standouts, in my view. I would go with Lethem/Whitehead, only because I already saw Díaz give a reading earlier this year, at Fordham. Actually, I feel like Whitehead was at Fordham last year, too, at a discussion with, among others, Saul Williams. I can’t remember, though; it may have been someone else.
But if I really had my ‘druthers that Friday night I’d see the marquee event: New Yorker Writers on The New Yorker, featuring Roger Angell, Adam Gopnik, Ariel Levy, Mark Singer and Judith Thurman, and hosted by Andy Borowitz. Though my opinion on Andy has recently declined thanks to his constant Twittery Facebook statuses (and the parade of fools who comment insipidly on them. Actually, it’s probably more the parade of fools than the statuses themselves that get me. I should go easy on Andy), he’s still an entertaining guy, and the rest of the people here are all very accomplished. Unsurprisingly, the event has already sold out (despite a hefty $45 price tag).