#LitBeat: Tumblr Writers BEA Party
By Laura Yan
On Wednesday night I went to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe early, and watched as the quiet, dim bookstore steadily transformed itself. With cheery red and white name tags (with a space for your Tumblr URL), and free flowing wine, the few attendees wandering through the store quickly turned into a lively crowd; their conversations became a steady soundtrack, overtaking the pleasant indie music that played on the stereo. From my perfect vantage point next to the reading stage, I could count no less than six flannel shirts in the crowd in front of me.
I had expected everyone to be avid bloggers, but it turned out there were quite a few people there who hardly knew what Tumblr was—“Can you sign up for it like Facebook?” one woman asked me. A few of the early arriving guests I spoke with were there to see Baratunde Thurston, author of How to Be Black, funny person, and owner of a name that is apparently impossible to pronounce.
As it approached 8 (an hour after the event’s listed starting time), Housing Works’s events director Amanda Bullock took the stage to introduce the store that hardly needed introductions. The first reader, The Millions’s own Edan Lepucki, began with a proclamation of how much she loved Tumblr. She read, from the opening of her novellaIf You’re Not Yet Like Me, a story of inviting a first date home while wearing granny panties, full of self-aware humor :“it was all so predictable—you don’t need me to describe it,” she said of the minutia of seduction, and the audience shuckled appreciatively at her evaluation of the characters’s date: “it was a classy response.”
Next up, novelist Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh, was introduced by Tumblr events director Rachel Fershleiser as “a legit literary writer who really gets the Internet.” As if to prover her point, Chee read a short story from his iPad about an unexpected summer job at CVS. The unfortunate narrator, Stanley, crashed a car into a stone wall with a Mexican exchange student named Paco in tow.
Finally, Thurston, author and stand-up comedian (an unfair advantage Fershleiser pointed out, introducing him as “our last performer”), took the stage. Thurston, the “reverse introvert,” told a story about an encounter with an overly friendly person at a bar. The woman was a “horrible overlap of curious and excited,” and while his inclination was to tell her “Look, I’m over 30—my friend circle is closed,” he treated her as he would a parent after a phone conversation goes on for 20 minutes too long. He gave hilariously flattened, one word answers to her hyper-excited questions. The exchange eventually culminateds in her exclamation of “You’re the whitest black guy I’ve ever met!” A fitting end to his pep talk on his book, which includes guidelines on “how to be the angry Negro,” not to mention, the important scientific tagline: “If you don’t buy this book, you’re racist. If your friends don’t buy this book, your friends are racist.”
Racism covered, readings accomplished, Fershleiser reminded the crowd that there was still plenty of time for “booze and flirting.” The crowd complied.
For anyone foolish enough to miss The Most Important Party at BEA, the fabulous Laura has your back.
We should coordinate, yeah?
In early June, the publishing industry takes Manhattan for Book Expo America. We’re taking the opportunity to celebrate the millions of amazing readers and writers who call the Tumblr community home.
Once again, I will be hosting 7x20x21 at Book Expo America with my good friend (and closet breakdancer extraordinaire) Ryan Chapman.
If you’ve never attended 7x20x21 before, it’s an Ignite-style talk where speakers have 7 minutes and 20 powerpoint slides to tell you all about their current publishing obsessions.
Sadly, this event is open only to folks attending this year’s BEA in New York, but there will be video taken and I will post it here!
- Statistician Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog at the NYT and should be the first thing you read every morning this fall
- Shelia Heti, author of Ticknor and the upcoming How Should a Person Be? (download the first two chapters)
- Robin Sloan, former Twitter employee, writer, media inventor, and creator of the much-lauded tap essay Fish.
- D. T. Max, writer of the upcoming David Foster Wallace bio, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story. (Read his New Yorker article about DFW.)
- Dan Wilbur, creator of Better Book Titles, a blog which offers this replacement title for Much Abo about Nothing: ‘An Extremely Complex Lie Will Clearly Solve Everything.’
- Jason Booher, book jacket designer and creator of the cover for Nick Harkway’s Angelmaker, which features an incredibly-hard-to-crack code the solution to which will be revealed to the audience!
All followed by a drinks reception where you can hang out with the speakers and make time with other attractive BEA attendees.
Tuesday, June 5th
Downtown Stage at BEA
3-4 PM, followed by cocktails from 4-5.
This is an amazing line-up and I can’t wait to see it!