Conversation: David Gutowski (Largehearted Boy) and Jami Attenberg Discuss Largehearted Lit.

By Jason Diamond

So here’s the thing,  I had never met either David Gutowski or Jami Attenberg in person.  I’ve read Gutowski’s Largehearted Boy for quite some time, and thanks to it, became fond of Ms. Attenberg’s writing.  When I e-mailed David a proposal to ask a few questions about the inaugural Largehearted Lit, (taking place this Sunday at the Brooklyn Knitting Factory with Lev Grossman and Libba Bray), he suggested we bring Jami into the conversation since she is the Brooklyn body of the events operation.  We did, and in doing so Attenberg and myself actually got away from our computers, met in person, and found out we are from neighboring towns.  (Ah, the magic of real life!)  Proving again that it is indeed a small world beyond the internet.

Largehearted Lit takes place this Sunday, is free, and no doubt the best thing to do on a Sunday afternoon (starts at five).  If you haven’t been to the new Knit, its located conveniently next door to the sweetest bar in Brooklyn, Spuyten Duyvil.  (Just wanted to mention that so you plan accordingly.)

So how is Largehearted Lit related to Book Notes?

JA: The people we’ve asked to read at Largehearted Lit have all been contributors to David’s tremendous Book Notes series. I think it’s a logical offshoot of what David has created over there, especially to have the series at a rock club. The new Knit is gorgeous! And there are so many wonderful authors to choose from, but I’ve been trying to find authors that I think are going to be accessible to the North Brooklyn audience and I think will be particularly enthusiastic about talking about music.

Are the readers involved always going to be ones that have contributed to Book Notes?

JA: Yes. But we’ll have musical performances by people who are not contributors.

What made you decide on Lev Grossman and Libba Bray for the inaugural event?

JA: They both have had recent books out that have gotten great reviews, and I love that they are connected by being literary fantasy authors. And they are both HUGE music fans. They fit all the qualifications: super talented writers who totally nerd out over music.

How did the two of you get involved in doing this together? How long has Largehearted Lit. been in the works?

DG: Jami has become a regular contributor to LHB for years, first through the Book Notes piece for her first short story collection, then with interviews and now the Antiheroines series of comics artist interviews.

After her “a ha!’ moment, she e-mailed me about the series and I couldn’t respond quickly enough (or with enough enthusiasm), this reading series is a perfect fit.

JA: David and I have known each other since my first book came out and I did my very first Book Notes, though we’ve never met in person. I did another reading series, specifically for debut authors, at the Boxcar Lounge in the East Village for three years, and then kind of drifted away from it because I was away from New York for about six months.

When I came back I started talking to the Knitting Factory, which was just starting the process of their new move to Williamsburg and construction and all of that, but I was kind of fuzzy about what I wanted to do. I felt like I was done with doing a series specifically dedicated to debuts – there are a couple out there now, god bless ’em! At the same time, I started contributing more to Largeheartedboy, specifically with the Antiheroines series, where I interview female cartoonists, so I was feeling pretty connected with the site. It pretty much just popped into my head one morning that I wanted to do something affiliated with LHB, and I’m so glad David was amenable to it. We brainstormed for a while until we came up with the right way to run the series.

David, you are a “a music-loving guy living deep in the American South.” Does having this series in Brooklyn signal a possible change of location?

DG: My wife gets out of grad school in late 2010, and Brooklyn is the first name on our list of new hometowns.

Jami, you have an upcoming book coming up, any news on that? When it’s out, etc?

JA: The Melting Season comes out January 2010 from Riverhead Books. I’m so excited about it! It takes place in Nebraska and Las Vegas and it is the story of a young woman from a small farming community who freaks out after her marriage falls apart, steals all her husband’s money, and hits the road. There are also celebrity impersonators, plastic surgery disasters, and alcoholic parents in the mix. It’s pretty much your average American love story, minus the “love” part.

Do you plan to contribute another Book Notes for the upcoming book like you did The Kept Man?

JA: I will keep writing for David for as long as he will have me. LHB is the best!

What’s coming up in the future for Largehearted Lit?

JA: December 6 we’ve got some awesome independent press authors, Emma Straub and Marie Mockett. I think Emma might sing. I know we’ve got Sam Lipsyte next year as well, which is going to be fantastic.

DG: We’ll also have a special Austin edition during SXSW in March, featuring readings by Jami, Stephen Elliott, and Bill Cotter, along with several acoustic music performances.