Stylish Russians are staples at Vica Miller’s Soho Literary Salons. Along with authors like Simon Van Booy, Miller invites other authors, editors, agents and fabulous foreign friends to attend her elegant private readings. The St. Petersburg native also has plenty of wine and throws her salons exclusively in art galleries both on Spring Street and the Upper West Side.
Her most recent rosters of readers included Marie-Helene Bertino, Catherine Chung, Karolina Waclawiak and Miller herself. Though the salons are always free, this evening was a benefit for the Speyer Legacy School and featured art by five and six year-old children that looked impressively like early Chagall or Money paintings. Bertino read about aliens from her brilliant short story collection Safe As Houses, Chung shared a never before seen essay about her Aunt, who was kidnapped and brought to North Korea, disappearing from her family for decades until writing them a letter out of the blue. Waclawiak stirred up the crowd with sexy scenes about public intercourse and a Polish girl who longs to be Russian. “Why would Polish want to be Russian?” Demanded one good natured listener at the Q&A session afterwards.
Miller was buoyant but also blunt and beautiful, in keeping with her person, she read from a novel in progress about a steamy affair and the surprising twist it takes. Truly, the pleasure of Miller’s Salons is that she often features unpublished authors alongside those who have already reached acclaim. I poured wine cups full and pulled Miller into a back room to chat briefly about the origin of her Salons, storytelling, St. Petersburg and sharing creative magic.
How did you start your Salons?
The idea was born in 2009. I was pregnant with my second daughter and I knew what was coming. The sleepless nights. I wanted to come up with something that would keep me above it all. I was then invited to read in an art gallery and I thought, this is something that will keep me connected to the literary world. It was very important for me to showcase published and unpublished writers.
Why was that so important to you?
There are so many great writers who are unpublished because the publishing world is so crowded. There are so many gems out there. It’s a very solitary profession to write, but every writer needs a stage on which to be heard.
Because you hope you are leaving a mark. Here, people really connect. There is an element of storytelling, like going back to your childhood where you read aloud. I wanted to do them in art galleries because I believe in creative synergies. Salons like this used to exist in St. Petersburg in the 19th Century and I am third generation St. Petersburg. For me, it was connected all those dots.
What is the difference for you between a salon and a formal reading? I prefer salons. I think they’re stronger and you experience the art in a much more intimate way.
When you talk about formal readings, it becomes a job to sell books. My job is to get people inspired. That’s the most important thing. Giving a reading is like spreading your legs while naked in front of the audience. You give them your innermost you. Writers and artists have a gift that they are sharing with you and if you don’t take it with respect, there is no magic.