Ink Slingers

Across Town, Words Jump off the Page

Like bands, authors often take their work on tour, reading at a wide range of venues—from divey bars and cozy independent bookstores to university auditoriums and superstores. New York is teeming with places where you can have literature served the way you like it.

The best reading series provide both a unique literary experience and a sense of community. The Russian Samovar (256 West 52nd Street, 757-0168), a midtown Russian restaurant originally backed by the late Joseph Brodsky, holds poetry readings attended by a fairly cosmopolitan mix of émigrés, Russophiles, and literati. Another space with a Russian theme, KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, 505-3360) has long been the downtown spot for up-and-coming writers (not to mention now successful writers returning to their roots). Rick Moody, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Kathryn Harrison all cut their teeth in this shadowy-verging-on-grungy bar.

Nipping at KGB's heels is Temple Bar (332 Lafayette Street, 925-4242), whose reading series is just a year old. Temple's surroundings are much more glam than KGB's—think red velvet, not iron curtain—and the downtown lit crowd seems enamored of Temple's lively lineups. Habitués of the National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South, 475-3424) series, programmed by a former KGB curator, gather in the Gramercy Park landmark's more genteel setting. Nestled near Herald Square, the Asian American Writers Workshop (16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A, 494-0061) is the hub of a thriving, and sometimes contentious, literary scene that unfolds in its 10th-floor loft space overlooking Koreatown. And the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church (131 East 10th Street, 674-0910) remains a pilgrimage spot for downtown beatniks, acolytes, and established poets.

Jaime Manrique reads from his memoir at the Poetry Project.
photo: Star Black
Jaime Manrique reads from his memoir at the Poetry Project.

New York is home to lots of literary events that don't fit any neat category. Always smart, never predictable, "Scout," the series curated by poet-novelist Eileen Myles at Thread Waxing Space (476 Broadway, 966-9520), has consistently showcased excellent nonmainstream writers and performers like Michelle Tea, Dodie Bellamy, and Kevin Killian, and often mixes it up with avant-garde film and music. The literary journal McSweeney's ( organizes a popular roving reading series. In addition to established authors like McSweeney's editor Dave Eggers and Sarah Vowell, the events often feature guitar-playing yarn-spinners, spontaneous contests, and free haircuts to selected audience members. "The Moth" ( presents regular "urban storytelling" evenings in which novelists, performers, and a smattering of "regular" folks narrate autobiographical tales amid much friendly carousing. Calls for a righteous grand slam continue to thrive at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 East 3rd Street, 505-8183), home to those who believe in poetry as a living, ear-whacking, foot-stomping art. Dixon Place (309 East 26th Street, 532-1546), a citadel of experimental performance art, hosts a "Writers on the Ledge" night, as well as "Homo Text," a gay and lesbian series.

Most of the city's universities sponsor literary events. The New School (66 West 12th Street, 229-5600) has a particularly stellar lineup this fall: Readings by Haruki Murakami, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, and legendary science fictionalists Ursula Le Guin and Samuel Delany are accompanied by onstage interviews. The New School is also hosting the "Harlem Writers Guild" reading series, which marks the 50th anniversary of the guild and celebrates the Harlem Writers Guild Press.

Many local bookstores have excellent series, too: The West Village is home to Three Lives (154 West 10th Street, 741-2069) and A Different Light (151 West 19th Street, 989-4850); the Lower East Side has Bluestockings Women's Bookstore (172 Allen Street, 777-6028), which features a monthly Spanish reading series, Soft Skull Shortwave Bookstore (107 Norfolk Street, 254-0787), and Housing Works (126 Crosby Street, 334-3324), a nonprofit used bookstore that boasts a variety of author readings and high-caliber book parties.

MARY MORRIS (Acts of God)
AND WHIT STILLMAN (Last Days of Disco)

September 10
Temple Bar, 332 Lafayette Street, 925-4242

Morris reads from her latest, about a young woman wrestling with memories of her natural-disaster-insurance-agent dad. Filmmaker Stillman plays the pomo card by novelizing his own movie.

YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA (Talking Dirty to the Gods)
September 12
Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette Street, 539-8770

Jazz vocalist Pamela Knowles and her quintet perform the lyrics of Komunyakaa in a piece titled Thirteen Kinds of Desire. Afterward, poet-veteran Komunyakaa reads from his new book of poems.

September 14
Bluestockings Women's Bookstore, 172 Allen Street, 777-6028

Participants reading at this Lower East Side feminist bookstore TBA.

September 14
Asian American Writers Workshop, 16 West 32nd Street,Suite 10A, 494-0061

The first international anthology of Filipino and Filipino American writers to be published in the U.S. Featured readers include Gina Apostal and Eileen Tabios.

September 20
The New School, 66 West 12th Street, 229-5600

Davis's spare, wonderfully stylized stories often involve ruminative, emotionally conflicted characters. Also a renowned translator of French works, she leads a forum on poetry.

September 20-24

This weekend-long festival, with the curiously vague theme "A book, e-book, any book!," is chockablock with readings and literary teas, culminating in a Sunday street fair on Fifth Avenue (between 48th and 57th streets, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

September 25
92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, 996-1100

The celebrated author reads from The Blind Assassin, an intricately layered novel about two Canadian high-profile writer sisters, one a novelist who drives off a bridge, the other a socialite who later recounts their compli-cated relationship.

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