In public schools, students often get detention for discussing such forbidden topics as: breasts and buttocks, politics and religion, murder and ducks. But the young writers contemplating and expounding these and other subjects were not sent to the principal’s office when they mouthed off Tuesday night. Instead they were cheered.
Held at the East Village Performance Space (P.S.) 122, a former public school in Greenwich Village, Tuesday’s “Feed the Young Writers 2004” brought up-and-coming writers together — including two Yale seniors — to read aloud their works and, presumably, get some meat on their bones.
Though different in style and subject matter, all six authors share a common connection to their subjects that is alarmingly funny and yet heartfelt. Whether a political commentary mixed with family drama or quarter-life crisis meets noir thriller, all of the selections veritably buzzed with a palpable tension (that had to be bleeped out for the purposes of this article).
“While each participant was indeed technically a ‘young writer,’ we had pretty much nothing else in common, and the unpredictability resulted in a pretty f***ing bizarre night. Naturally, I was glad to be there and be involved. The rain was f***ing unpleasant, though. New York rain actually smells bad,” Nick Antosca ’05 said.
Set in a small black-box theatre with some ingenious lighting and backdrops, the author has little to work with but the microphone and the material. While there were occasional lulls in the performances, the readings proved overwhelmingly funny and strikingly diverse. The only complaint one could have is the gender-skewed line-up of only one female author and five male authors. Clearly, “Feed the Young Writers” must have a slew of anorexic females waiting in the wings to do “Starving Young Writers.” In the future, it would not hurt to throw more X-X talent out into the proverbial trough.
Jackie Corley, creator of Word Riot, a monthly online literature magazine, was the sole female author. Her piece was surprisingly mellow, concentrating on her relationship with her brother. And yet the simplicity of its theme belies the complexity of the work’s form and language. Weaving metaphors and analogies more adeptly than your grandmother’s yarn, Corley connected to her audience and the material without resorting to emotional bulimia. Through a detached lens and a good dose of ironic retrospect, Corley delivered a poignant and moving conclusion on family ties and one’s ability to save siblings, or anyone, from themselves.
Antosca, who recently won the 2004 Willetts Prize for Fiction and whose publication credits include The Barcelona and Adirondack Reviews, read a strange and creepy tale that was ultimately anything but that. Antosca had the audience laughing within seconds of introducing his protagonist, a young man who lives alone in his house because both his parents died. He then introduced a criminal trespasser carrying a suitcase full of genitalia, both male and female, that the criminal acquired while working in a funeral home. That the second character could have a positive impact on the first may sound strange, but that’s exactly what happens. And don’t we all just wish that a guy with a bag of genitalia would come knocking on our doors to inspire our lives?
One of the most compelling and intriguing reads of the night was by Lexy Benaim ’05, whose story centers around a fictional Tangiers community and Arab-Israeli tension through the relationship between a boy, his duck, and the boy’s family. At times, Benaim’s wit is so sharp that the audience may not feel the pricks until the end, when the full force of his words finally hits home. Benaim’s ability to delve into the political without alienating the familiar is a feat that borders on precarious at times, but in the end is effective and beautiful.
David Amsden, author of “Important Things that Don’t Matter” and a contributing editor to New York magazine, read a thoughtful and humorous account of a pubescent fantasy incarnated in a female neighbor. Marty Beckerman, who has been published in the New York Times and the Post, filled the teenage angst quota with his dutifully embarrassing, hilarious, and just a little bit sad account of his first attempt to grope a female chest.
Besides their common gravitation towards gender-sensitive body parts, the six unique young authors involved in “Feed the Young Writers 2004” also share a unique grasp of life events, one that kept the audience listening and, one hopes, reading in the future. As the advertisement read, “Being a young writer in New York is hard.” And having no one to read your work just sucks.