Lit Crawling through NYC

Posted by Jon Reiss

Last Saturday’s NYC Lit Crawl began at 6 PM in the East Village and ended at around 9 in the Lower East Side.  The event, which was sponsored by likes of heavy lit-ters such as Granta, Harper Perennial and Craig from Craigslist, offered a smorgasbord of mainly light-hearted often-silly events.  Bomb’s “Bomb-aoke” at Bowery Electric, for instance, promised a karaoke-meets interviews format where crawlers could take the stage, pretending to be one of the many artists interviewed by Bomb, and…say what they said into a microphone.  FSG’s Nerd Jeopardy promised a by-the-book game of Jeopardy at 310 Lounge, only with answers like “What is Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask?”  Meanwhile Smith Magazine’s “Six Word Memoir Slam” promised a more novel and bearable approach to the slam format and The Paris Review unveiled the contents of their upcoming issue, to music.  You might find yourself wondering why all of these events marked by some kind of party game fluff.  Most likely because inherent in the idea of “The Crawl” is intoxication to the point where walking just isn’t an option.  Thus, for Bomb, The Paris Review and FSG, a straightforward reading just wasn’t an option for this year’s Lit Crawl.  However, not everyone played some version of pin the tail on the publishing house or lit mag Apples to Apples, some events hedged their bets that members of the New York Lit scene would be capable of passive drunk listening.  For instance, Granta’s cap to the evening “Ten Years Later: A Look Out how the World Has Changed since 9/11, probably wasn’t so easily accompanied by a drinking game.

For Soho Press, a straight forward reading at Stryker bar didn’t seem too risky a prospect for this year’s lit crawl.  The small publishing house best known for their crime fiction releases seems to be moving more into the edgy literary fiction world while maintaining their reputation for crime and mystery.  Soho’s Lit Crawl reading started with author Henry Chamg, reading from his novel Red Jade, about two hardboiled dicks discovering dead bodies in Chinatown.  Next, author Juliann Garey read from the forthcoming novel, Electric Madeline, which follows a studio exec as he plummets into bi polar disorder.  The novel reads like Chuck Palahniuk novel with it’s tension-building repetition and hyper-self aware narration, and it won a slew of laughs from the slightly buzzed crawlers.  To end the evening, author Alex Shakar read from his forthcoming Luminarium, which, after receiving a groundswell of good reviews over the past two weeks, seems like a book that’s likely to make a lot of critics “Best of ‘11” lists.  The novel, which follows a man through a course of clinical trials in which spiritual and life-changing experiences are artificially implanted into his brain, reads like a cross between an old Richard Linklater film and a Lipsyte novel and had the now tipsy audience in hysterics.

All in all, there’s nothing wrong with pounding a few a drinks and listening to fiction.  In fact, it sounds to me like a pretty good way to spend the rest of one’s life.  If not, you can always sing Rimbaud poems to the tune of “Hooked On A Feeling.”  Either way, the Lit Crawl is a much-needed event here in NYC.