Upstate: Hunt, Sante, Tesla, Records

Photo by Jackie Roman

Posted by Tobias Carroll

Generally, whenever music festivals roll around, I’m the grouchy guy on the internet who wishes that more literary events were roped in. These days, music festivals are rarely just about music: film or visual art or some other equally admirable discipline will end up involved as well. Yet, even as certain small presses speak openly about their aesthetic and organizational debt to indie labels, there does seem to be a dearth of cultural exchange between musical types and literary types on the festival level. This isn’t the case everywhere, however. I spent this past weekend in Monticello, New York for the third New York installment of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. And — bless ’em — ATP has apparently begun asking their festival curators to provide a recommended reading list.

Jim Jarmusch did so for the New York edition, and so it was that I found myself taking in a noontime reading from the reliably excellent Samantha Hunt and Luc Sante. Hunt read a few sections from The Invention of Everything Else her novel of Nikolai Tesla, which managed the impressive feat of precisely rendering a mind leaping from moment to moment and notion to notion. Sante’s piece, also an excerpt from a longer work, seemed to be a sort of autobiography through singles, a social history of recordings juxtaposed with personal history and long-vanished landscapes.

Carlo McCormick moderated, providing a few questions of his own that were able to apply equally well to a pair of seemingly disparate works, and the audience Q & A touched on topics ranging from Jack White to national claims on Tesla’s legacy. All in all, it was a good event — readings that held attention, good dialogue between writers and audience, and insightful questions all around.