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Bonanza of author events in NYC

March 15, 2013

This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week is the explosion of really good author events in bookstores throughout New York City and Brooklyn.  In recent months I’ve gone to see Tony Fletcher talk about his history of the Smiths and Peter Hook talk about his history of Joy Division (yes, I know, not really expanding my horizons with those two).  Both talks were excellent, and while I didn’t buy the Fletcher book – it was just a little too dense for me at 700 pages – I did read and enjoy Hooky’s memoir.  The quality of these events also got me thinking that I should be on the lookout for more top-shelf author events; as it turns out, I’d been missing out on an exciting aspect of the literary world.

Last night was the apotheosis of this new world for me.  All at once, there were four very interesting author events taking place, which meant I’d have to choose just one.  I could have been disappointed at being forced to miss three of these four, but I chose instead to think of it as a positive harbinger of what’s to come.  Hopefully there will be many more events like these in my near future.

The first was at the Strand and was titled “What did Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Lucien Carr all have in common? Mania.”  Writers/Professors Ron Collins and David Skover “delve deeply into the mad, manic and drug-and-sex fueled lives of the writers and artists who shaped the counter culture movement in their book Mania: The Story of the Outraged & Outrageous Lives That Launched A Cultural Revolution.” New York Times journalist John Leland moderated a discussion with the authors.  I imagine that would have been an interesting talk with some very bright minds, but I reluctantly skipped it, thinking that I could get nearly as much out of it by simply reading the book.

The second was only a few blocks north at Barnes & Noble Union Square, a reading and signing by musician and writer Richard Hell, who (quoting WNYC) “charts his childhood, coming of age, and misadventures as an artist in the era of rock and roll. I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography is about his journey from the hinterlands into the city in search of art and passion when he was 17. He was a pivotal voice of the age of punk, starting such seminal bands as Television, the Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and he help make CBGB a punk ground zero.” Richard Hell is a fascinating character that I really wish I would have heard from in person.  I’m sure he has a unique perspective on the NYC punk scene in the late ’70s, and this would have been a nice compliment to the panel I attended several months ago at the New Museum (Parallel Lines: Visual Art, CBGB, and Downtown Nightlife).  Fortunately he will be appearing next week at Bookmarc, and so I chose to go to skip this one as well.

The third event was in Greenpoint, at independent bookstore Word, which was hosting the “Brooklyn Arts Press Night,” featuring readings by Jared Harel (The Body Double) and Joe Fletcher (Already It Is Dusk) and music from Brooklyn-based band The Dust Engineers.  Word is a terrific store and I suspect that this event may have been the most purely fun one of the bunch, but there was something about this last event that I could not resist …

Swissted.What is Swissted?  As its site explains: “Swissted is an ongoing project by graphic designer Mike Joyce, owner of stereotype design in New York City. Drawing from his love of punk rock and Swiss modernism, two movements that have (almost) nothing to do with one another, Mike has redesigned vintage punk, hardcore, new wave, and indie rock show flyers into international typographic style posters. Each design is set in lowercase berthold akzidenz-grotesk medium (not helvetica). Every single one of these shows actually happened.”  The event itself was a book launch at Powerhouse Arena bookstore in DUMBO; Joyce’s book is a collection of his posters, over 200 in all, micro-perforated and ready to frame.  In conjunction with the book launch, Powerhouse was hosting an exhibition of the posters, which I suspect will never look better than they did on the stark white walls of this incredible space.  I encourage everyone reading this to click over to the Swissted website.  Even seeing these posters on my computer screen was enough to compel me to see them in person.  And once I did that, I was blown away by the color, the intensity, the resonance of Joyce’s work.  The posters leap out at you as if they are channeling the bands they represent.  Yes, the bands … how did I neglect to mention the punk/indie/alternative bands that Joyce chose to feature in his work.  The posters I saw live featured legendary indie, alternative, and punk bands such as Nirvana, R.E.M., Television, the Breeders, Radiohead, the Smiths, the Cramps, Danzig, Teenage Fanclub, Bikini Kill, the Cult, the Beastie Boys, the Clash, the Ramones, the Lemonheads, Superdrag, Gang of Four, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys and the Runaways.  Whew!  Notice a few bands I’ve written about once or twice here?  You can expect that a poster or two will eventually make it into my home.  Just an exceptional job by Joyce capturing the essence of these bands in an unexpected way.

And that’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.

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