On the first Wednesday of the month, this happens—the reading party.
Last week, Kyle O'Quin played classical piano for the first hour (when he's not playing classical piano he also plays in Wild Orchid Children and Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground), and all of the special guests were musicians too: Jason Finn, the drummer in Presidents of the United States of America; Dave Hernandez, who's in the Shins and the Intelligence and Little Cuts and Puberty; Sean Nelson, former frontman of Harvey Danger; and Susanna Welbourne, who plays bass keys in the Intelligence.
It was Finn's idea (I think?) to have everyone write a book report about what they read while they were at the reading party, so that's what I made 'em do!! Everyone sent one in except Ms. Welbourne, who left her copy of Madame Bovary at the bar, got so wasted that she puked at the mall the next day, and never did her homework. Everyone else's homework is after the jump.
OH AND TWO QUICK HOUSEKEEPING ISSUES: (1) There was miscommunication with the bar staff about the $4 perfect Manhattan special that is a reading party mainstay; people who ordered Manhattans were charged the insane price of $12. If that happened to you, send me an email. (2) Kyle is now in permanent residence at the reading party, and will play for the first hour every month. No matter what Sean Nelson says (see below), reading while someone is playing Chopin in the background is always a good idea.
Jason Finn was reading a Kindle, so who knows what he was actually looking at, considering the lack of a book jacket.
I am a dedicated Kindle guy. So dedicated that I am on my third one, due to separate but almost identical stepping-on-them incidents. DO NOT STEP ON YOUR KINDLE. And I should mention also that while you may say to yourself, "God, that guy is a complete ass-hat to keep stepping on his Kindles in separate but almost identical incidents," it is in fact GOOD FOR EVERYONE, because every time I buy a new one they put out a smaller, better one that is $50 cheaper within a week.
Anyway, my strategy going in was to switch back and forth between Keith Richards' Life and Jim Mcmanus's excellent Cowboys Full: The Story Of Poker. But Keith's book was too fun to put down, especially imagining it being read by Johnny Depp Doing Keith Richards. And it went pretty quickly. I guess it's shorter than I had supposed... definitely shorter than Liz Phair's 4-million-word "review" in the NYTBR a few months back.
Kyle's piano playing was excellent, he should have played longer. Sean kept bugging me. Geez Sean, NO TALKING. Hernandez was late, and I had my hands full explaining to him why it would be a bad idea for him to "make it rain" right there in the Fireside Room.
Sean Nelson was reading Wallace Shawn's Essays:
It's hard to read while someone is playing the piano, especially when he's playing amazing music as expressively as Kyle was playing. Listening to music like that is a bit like reading anyway. It demands and rewards concentration. I never understand how people say they read or write with music playing—it's like trying to concentrate on something when someone is standing right in front of you and talking. Speaking of which, I was sitting with four people I know and like, and there was a fair amount of chit chat going on at this silent event, even if it was sotto voce. So, in between reading the same two paragraphs of a Wallace Shawn essays over and over, and whispering about the finer points of the Keith Richards memoir audiobook with Jason Finn, and trying to make Christopher laugh, and drinking a misbegotten sorority girl beverage called the Peppermint Patty, and then Charles Mudede showing up, it's like why even bring a book, much less two? Still, the Sorrento is great and I only saw four people with Kindles (and one with an iPad). The paragraph I read was good. It concerned socialism in some way.
Dave Hernandez was reading Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind:
I'd given this book, a pulpy account of the Norwegian Black Metal church burnings and murders, a run while touring through Australia in 2006. I made it half way through and since then I've faithfully moved it from house to house, bookcase to bookcase without really touching it. Nestled between Angels of Death (hells angels nonfiction) and The Devils Butcher Shop (prison riot nonfiction) it wasn't the subject matter that pushed me away. It was the nerdiness. True, Varg Vikernes is a racist murderer (a smart, funny, and eloquent racist murderer) and his band Burzum are irreplaceable, but what this really boils down to is bored kids with way too much time on their hands. (I'm way more of a Darkthrone guy anyway. As shown in the fantastic documentary Until The Light Takes Us, Fenriz is the waayyyy better hang. That guy has a good head on his shoulders.) I have little patience for nerds. Especially ones that turn into Trenchcoat Mafias.
That said these bored nerds created an international movement, and the deaths were indeed shocking, and if nothing else this book highlights their surprisingly liberal court system, and also sheds light on a true historically motivating factor behind their brand of Satanism. So I guess it succeeds in lots of ways as well. Also there's incredible photos, especially for fans of Mayhem.
One last note, depending on your demeanor, or general outlook on mortality and fear of flying level, I dont recommend having a picture of a kid with his head blown off be the last thing you see before your plane hits severe turbulence that lasts for a few minutes.