Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Natasha Radojcic Reading

I recently met Natasha Radojcic, author of Homecoming and You Don’t Have to Live Here, and she was kind enough to invite me to her reading last night in the East Village. With some wangling, I made it. What a treat!

Last night’s reading was the first in a series of two-person readings every Monday night at the new club, Mo Pitkins’ House of Satisfaction (Avenue A, btw. 2nd & 3rd). I was a few minutes late and missed Leigh Newman’s introduction and the first few paragraphs of Natasha’s new work, but, once I caught my breath, what a pleasure.

I am reading her Homecoming now—I hope to be able to write about it here later this week—and find it dazzling. It’s a bleak story of a soldier returning from the war in Sarajevo. (And she tells me she finds Mrs. Dalloway depressing…) But the new work takes a different turn. This book not only participates in the magic realist tradition (Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a hero of hers), it revels in that genre’s most utopian strains. So we heard about a lazy Mississippi town, Dreaming, where no one dies and all love to dance and then, about a drab woman from Bayside, Brooklyn, who seems to be on her way to a Southern adventure. Reading the one and hearing the other—less polished, happier—was so exciting. I could see that I was watching an ambitious novelist work to push her art forward.

The upstairs room at Mo’s is perfect—long and narrow with a velvet curtain at the back of the stage and exposed brick walls. It’s just wide enough for three narrow rows of tables: little tables for two snugged up against the red leatherette banquettes on each side and then a long, cafeteria style line of tables in the center. The menu fits the neighborhood: collegiate cheap. I just had seltzer and cranberry but, were I much younger, I would have been tempted by the “Choose any 6 for $13” option, with a wild list of snacky-things to heap on your table. Can you imagine how fun it would be to be in your twenties, ordering pitchers of beer and platters of 6 little things for $13?

After Natasha read, Leigh, the hostess, got up and announced that, over the weekend she had randomly met Summer Pierre (?), a singer-songwriter newly arrived in New York & wanted to give her the chance to play. She did sing one song and it was lovely and smart and moving. Then, Lisa Selin Davis got up and, anxiously apologizing, did about ten minutes of hilarious stand-up about how unprepared she was to read, what a horrible day she’d had, how that made her less nervous than usual, but that she still had cotton mouth, etc. We were horrified and in stitches. Then she read a terrific passage from Belly in which the title character, a father released from prison, gets drunk and makes a pass at his daughter’s lesbian lover.

I hung out with Natasha and her friends for a bit then went to Two Boots for a slice and ambled to the PATH train home to JC. All in all, a delicious and fabulous break from the routine of fixing Grover Grape juice & Annie’s mac & cheese for the beloved toddler and then watching Aaron Brown and Andersoon Cooper empathize with the suffering of Katrina. And more than that, too.

No comments: