A Poet on Bombing Or Pretending to be a Comic

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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 | 2,640 views

People aren’t often taught how to deal with failure. Even watching interviews with famous people chat about missteps doesn’t seem to hit home because we never saw that part. Their disappointments seem cute as opposed to career questioning. For writers, failure is most evident on stage. Unlike piles of rejection slips one can stuff in a draw, light on fire, or scrapbook, in front of a crowd, a person has to respond. They must get comfortable with silence or deal with too much noise. This too is true of comedians and is why I sometimes pretend I’m a standup comic rather than a poet. Although maybe it’s because comics are the more socially acceptable of the low-paid artists. If you tell someone you’re a poet, they look confused; say you’re a comic, they fervently discuss Louis CK. Of course, a poet bombing looks rather different than a comic, but that image is fun to examine, and it still explores ideas of failure and heckling that are necessary for any artist.

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Matthew Thomas Reads We Are Not Ourselves

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Thursday, August 21st, 2014 | 2,032 views

Matthew Thomas reads We Are Not Ourselves

Matthew Thomas read from his debut novel We Are Not Ourselves, an family novel based around Irish immigrants in New York City, at BookCourt in Brooklyn. Thomas was born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, but he says his grandmother lived in an apartment in Brooklyn not far from BookCourt until the 1990s. Then she paid, he estimated, a mere $170 a month. In college at the time, he had begged his family to hold onto the apartment. Now he figures the apartment is probably closer to $4,000. “Brooklyn is so different in general,” he muses.

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Amy Sohn Talks The Actress with Choire Sicha

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Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | 4,879 views

Amy Sohn reads from her latest novel, The Actress, at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint Brooklyn

WORD Bookstore hosted Amy Sohn to talk about her latest novel, The Actress, (July 2014), with Choire Sicha, co-proprietor of The Awl. Sohn provided pierogies from a neighborhood restaurant and Sicha set the mood as casual, insisting members of the audience should call out questions or comments they pair could answer or refute.

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Karl Ove Knausgaard and Zadie Smith Discuss My Struggle

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Friday, June 6th, 2014 | 5,211 views

As I sit to write this review, I’d rather be finishing the third volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. I’ve done little else for the last few weeks, as I just began reading the 3,500-page, six-volume novel following the media attention of the third volume’s English publication.

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Second Downtown Literary Festival: A Collective (Abbreviated) Review

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Thursday, April 17th, 2014 | 2,882 views

Tobias Carroll hosts The Greatest 3-Minute Bad Apartment Stories at Housing Works Bookstore Café

At a time when the independent bookstore has been under scrutiny—Julie Bosman of The New York Times, most notably, investigated whether the burgeoning rent costs would drive sellers out of Manhattan—McNally Jackson Books and Housing Works joined together to host the Second Annual Downtown Literary Festival on Sunday, April 13th. Though there were moments when the young age of the festival showed a bit (some events were simply more organized and better prepared than others), the joint McNally Jackson and Housing Works production succeeded in displaying the vibrant literary culture that still exists around Houston Street, adding, in its own way, to the recent trend of criticism and analyses that has centered on Manhattan as the “Writer Mecca” of the United States.

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Akhil Sharma Reads Family Life with George Packer

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Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | 2,394 views

Akhil Sharma reads Family Life at Center for Fiction

Twelve and a half years and seven thousand pages later, Akhil Sharma’s second novel, Family Life, has been released to rave reviews from places like The New York Times. George Packer, staff writer at the The New Yorker joined Sharma at the Center for Fiction to discuss the novel, a fictionalized, semi-autobiographical account of Sharma’s early life.

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The War of the Words

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 | 2,651 views


In one of his classic comedy bits, George Carlin opines that the U.S. is a nation inherently obsessed with war to the degree that we have prescribed it as the cure for everything. We have declared, in the past 60 years, a war on drugs, a war on poverty, a war on cancer, and a war on terror, among others. All problems are seen as conflicts, a collective pitted against some threatening other. Often the other is conveniently difficult to identify or locate. Nevertheless there is a threat and the only response is to do battle with that threat. This ultimate fighting champion mindset seems, like cat hair, to cling to every metaphorical article of clothing in our walk-in closet.

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A Tale of Teaching and Writing (in Parentheticals)

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Monday, April 14th, 2014 | 2,072 views

Remember what you’re here for, my professors repeated during my two years enrolled in the Rutgers-Newark MFA program. Do not permit teaching responsibilities to interfere with writing, they would say. Their words echoed in my adjunct office, bouncing back and forth between concrete walls (there were no windows; it looked like a glorious prison cell). I felt as if I was hiding a shameful secret when I nodded along to their sage words. But here it is in print now: I felt as passionately about teaching as I did about writing, and on many occasions (please don’t tell them), I did let teaching trump writing; I was still learning the program’s requirements and the students’ abilities (or lack thereof) as well as my own (or lack thereof works here, too). I felt I was there for both (like the true rebel that I am).

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