The Reading City

Peter Terzian


Summer’s clock may not start ticking until June 21, but for the publishing world, the season sweeps in a few weeks earlier, traditionally on the weekend after Memorial Day. Book Expo America,  the industry’s annual trade show, is the unofficial launch of the publishing summer. Booksellers, authors, editors, publicists and other literary professionals gather to promote their leading titles, attend breakfasts and panel discussions on "buzz books," and discuss the state of the industry.

Sadly, publishing insiders have much to lament this year. Sales figures are down across the board, companies are being forced to tighten their belts and new technologies like the Kindle are causing publishers to rethink time-honored business strategies. Still, you wouldn’t know times were hard from the wealth of good books coming out now and in the months ahead. While the rest of the City packs up for the country or the coast, the bookworms who plan to spend summer in New York get the benefit of top-tier authors touting their new releases at bookstores, during reading nights at intimate bars and cafés and as part of the literary festivals located in the City’s parks. Seeing a favorite author read,  buying a book (or two), meeting other book lovers—there’s no better way to spend a summer evening, or to support an industry that has long been a cornerstone of the City’s cultural life.

June 2
Joseph O’Neill
BookCourt, 7pm
  One of last year’s most acclaimed literary novels is experiencing a second moment of fame. Netherland (Vintage), by Joseph O’Neill—a writer who was born in Ireland, raised in the Netherlands and became a Manhattan resident by way of London—is a portrait of New York City’s rich multicultural tapestry as seen through the lens of a diverse Staten Island cricket team. The book made headlines in early May when President Barack Obama listed it among his current reading material; weeks later, O’Neill’s novel was awarded the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. (Read our interview with the author here.) O’Neill participated in a small publicity jaunt last year upon Netherland‘s hardcover release; for the paperback edition, he’s embarking on an expanded author tour that kicks off with this event.

June 3
Christopher Buckley
Bryant Park Reading Room, 12:30pm
  Last year, writing from his post at National Review, Buckley shocked the conservative establishment by endorsing Barack Obama. This year, he’s made another about-face, departing from his series of satirical novels about Washington politics (such as Thank You for Smoking) with the publication of Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir (Twelve). The book is a family memoir of his famous parents, conservative commentator William F. Buckley and Manhattan socialite Patricia Buckley, and their frequently troubled relationship with their only son. The event will be hosted by John Tierney, a New York Times journalist and Buckley’s occasional collaborator.

June 4
Adrian Tomine and Seth
Strand Bookstore, 7pm
  Two beloved contemporary comics artists will discuss their recent work. Seth’s George Sprott 1894–1975 (Drawn & Quarterly), the bittersweet fictional biography of a rotund, bewhiskered Canadian TV show host, was first serialized in the New York Times Magazine. Adrian Tomine, a Brooklyn resident, has just released the paperback edition of Shortcomings (Drawn &  Quarterly), his first full-length graphic novel. The book, which won praise from fiction writers Junot Diaz and Jonathan Lethem,  follows a group of twentysomethings—including the disgruntled Ben Tanaka, one of Tomine’s most indelible characters—as their romantic lives become tangled up in issues of race and sexuality.

June 9
Arthur Laurents
Strand Bookstore, 7pm
  At the age of 90, the Broadway playwright and director has rounded out his illustrious career with Mainly on Directing (Knopf Doubleday), a memoir of the classic musicals he has worked on, including West Side Story, Gypsy and La Cage aux Folles. Along the way, he shares his memories of Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, Stephen Sondheim,  Barbra Streisand and other New York theatre stars.

June 16
Carlos Ruiz Zafón with Las Rubias del Norte
Barnes & Noble Union Square,  7pm
  Barnes & Noble’s’  "Upstairs at the Square" literary series has developed a loyal following for its inventive marriage of books and music, pairing contemporary authors with complementary musical artists. Zafón’s The Angel’s Game   (Knopf Doubleday) is a narrative spin-off from his best-selling The Shadow of the Wind;  in the new book, a young novelist living in a gothic mansion in Barcelona is drawn into a real-life mystery. The Brooklyn band Las Rubias del Norte plays a singular mash-up of bolero, cha-cha-cha and cowboy music.

June 17
Kate Christensen
McNally Jackson Books, 7pm

  Brooklyn writer Christensen won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for The Great Man,  the most recent in a series of subtle, witty novels of contemporary urban life.  Her latest, Trouble (Doubleday),  is the story of two women (a New York psychotherapist and a Los Angeles musician) who are friends from college; now, in mid-life, they find themselves in sexual hot water when each leaves a seemingly stable relationship for another man. The two meet up for a tequila-soaked, revelatory Christmas holiday in Mexico City. Appropriately, McNally Jackson’s book-release party will feature sangria and tacos from nearby Pinche Taqueria.

June 18
Elizabeth Alexander, Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharon Olds
Central Park SummerStage,  7:30pm  
  Three of our most important contemporary poets gather to read their work and participate in a roundtable discussion. Harlem-born Alexander entered the national consciousness when she read her poem "Praise Song for the Day" at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Ellis, an African-American poet who won a Whiting Award for his first collection, The Maverick Room, draws inspiration from sources as diverse as photography and Washington, DC’s go-go music scene. Since 1980, Olds, the one-time New York State poet laureate, has published 10 books of lucid,  sometimes startling verse about family, sexuality and domestic violence.

June 29
J. Courtney Sullivan
  McNally Jackson Books, 7pm
  Commencement (Knopf),  Sullivan’s debut novel, has already won comparisons to Mary McCarthy’s The Group and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, novels of college life and its aftermath. Sullivan follows the lives of four Smith College graduates through familial, academic, romantic and professional crises, but adds a feminist twist: one of her heroines finds fulfillment as a political activist. (Commencement arrives with advance praise from Gloria Steinem, one of the author’s heroines.) Sullivan will be interviewed by Jennifer Jackson, her editor.

June 30
Colum McCann
Barnes & Noble Union Square,  7pm
The Dublin-born author of the critically praised but commercially overlooked Dancer and Zoli delivers Let the Great World Spin (Random House), his Great New York Novel, set in 1974 as Philippe Petit executes his daring tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers. Touching off from that real-life event, McCann weaves together a fictional urban tapestry that includes a group of Park Avenue housewives mourning the loss of their sons in Vietnam, a radical monk working in the Bronx and a prostitute struggling to support her family. Join McCann after the reading for a cash-bar after-party at Swift’s Hibernian Lounge on East 4th Street.



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