Winning big this week: Marlon James, Dayna Tortorici, Mark Doten, Peter Terzian, Caleb Crain, Mark Greif, Allison Lorentzen, Tobi Haslett, Audrey Wollen, Clare Fentress, Leon Neyfakh, Alice Gregory, Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, Will Purcell, Randall Lane, Mark Davis, Rob Agueli, and many more…
We’ve been publishing for a year today, and to celebrate, we have a blockbuster social column featuring a big little magazine party and the end of this year’s media softball season. (More on an in-person celebration soon!)
OUT AND ABOUT
Booker Prize-winning novelist Marlon James had never been to an n+1 event before Wednesday. “I never lived here,” he told The Fine Print at the bar in The Jane Hotel’s ballroom. “I used to live in Minneapolis, so all this is new.” He moved to New York in 2018, “but then we had a pandemic, so technically I haven’t been here that long.” He’d spent much of this year in Jamaica shooting the first TV show he’s created, Get Millie Black for HBO, and now he was ready to mingle with a New York literary and media crowd at N Plus Ultra, the little magazine’s big annual fundraiser and award ceremony. Did he have any expectations for the party? “There will be cool writers,” James pronounced. “Hopefully, there’s somebody who has a meltdown. Some literary feud will begin tonight, another will end. We can only hope.”
This was the first gala n+1 had thrown since 2019, and a few things had changed. “This one’s in Manhattan,” said Richard Beck, a senior writer for the magazine. “n+1’s a very Brooklyn magazine, so this feels like a little branching out.” How had they chosen The Jane? “I personally like to sit down on upholstered furniture,” said n+1 co-editor Dayna Tortorici, getting up from one of the ballroom’s many couches, “and I heard that there was a lot of upholstery here.” The hotel evoked memories of the ’90s for some attendees. “Years and years ago, Hedwig and the Angry Inch started, actually, in this building. I saw the first performance here, and I haven’t been back here since that time,” said New Museum chief operating officer Dennis Szakacs, who came with n+1 advisory board member Henry Rich. “The building was a wreck. It hadn’t been renovated and fixed up like this. It was almost like guerilla theater.” Trump Sky Alpha novelist Mark Doten flashed back to a more recent New York Tyrant party. “They had the whole space and the cool kid thing up there. I remember trying to crack the code of [fashion designer] Chris March. Gian [DiTrapano] was — you can imagine — he was doing coke,” Doten said. “This is only a few years ago, but they’re all dead.”
The other big change was that the gala was based around n+1 themed cocktails — including “Utopia in Our Lime!” and “Good Greif” — rather than dinner. Reminiscences of feasts past circulated among longtimers. “I have a very fond memory because everyone at my table got up between the dinner and dessert course to mingle and, in the meantime, there were these eight unattended chocolate mousses, so I think I ate like four of them,” said Travel + Leisure features editor Peter Terzian, who came with his husband, one of the night’s honorees, novelist Caleb Crain. “I think I ate A.O. Scott’s.” Had attendees prepared for how much faster they’d get drunk without an entrée (or multiple desserts) to buoy them? “I had a kale salad before I came here,” said n+1 contributor Will Tavlin, worryingly. “I could use some hors d’ouvres. I don’t see any,” said Paris Review advisory editor Dan Piepenbring. “I think it’s Caleb’s novels, a little light reading,” said New York Times, New Yorker, and Harper’s contributor Bobby Baird, glancing hungrily at the books scattered on tables around the room. “I was saying on the way here, ‘I hope there are pigs in a blanket,’” said Piepenbring. “If there aren’t pigs in a blanket, the whole world needs to know about it.” There weren’t, though more abstract treats soon started circulating.
Though the gala’s form may have changed, the purpose remained the same. “The thing about money is that we’re very keen to raise it. That’s why we’re here, even if that’s not why you think you’re here,” n+1 co-editor and publisher Mark Krotov told the crowd, putting on his best Borscht Belt affect. Later on, asked how he felt at the end of his third round of shilling, Krotov seemed relatively upbeat. “In 2019, our sound system went out at one of these, and so I just had to yell at people to give us money,” he said, “anything beyond that feels more or less fine.” This sort of straightforward fundraising has been part of running the magazine since the days when it was just the founders, two of whom, Mark Greif and Allison Lorentzen, were present. “Those guys knew very early on that the hustle is inseparable from literary production. Nobody was ever too good for it,” Krotov said. “Institutionally, we all know it’s not a genteel world, we’ve got to keep it going.”
But there were other priorities too, such as the awards ceremony. Krotov presented Crain with the inaugural Anthony Veasna So Fiction Prize next to the ballroom’s fireplace. “This prize, which I cannot help but call the Anthony Prize, was inaugurated last year, shortly after Anthony So’s death and before the publication of his earth-shattering story collection After Parties,” Krotov said. “He was a fierce and generational talent. And some of my happiest times over the past few years were spent in his presence, and in his text message presence and his DM presence, and perhaps above all editing his fiction and nonfiction. When Anthony died, everyone at n+1 felt that we had to do something beyond the ordinary to keep his memory alive, to remind new readers of this small but remarkable body of work, and to remind ourselves that we’ve been lucky enough to be in the presence of such a beautiful talent. Hence the Anthony Prize.”
Crain’s memories of the magazine go back before its founding in 2004. “Rick Perlstein was leaving town and he had a barbecue in Prospect Park. Keith Gessen came and he was like, ‘We’re starting a magazine,’” Crain told The Fine Print. “Keith was just a kid back then.” In 2007, in its sixth issue, the magazine published his novella Sweet Grafton, “which is kind of what made me decide that I could take the risk of becoming a fiction writer.” During his acceptance speech, Crain seemed endearingly overwhelmed. “I’m sorry, my hands are shaking terribly and I can’t read my own writing,” he said, pausing until Krotov stepped in to hold the paper for him. “He sort of redefined the acceptance speech tonight. Finally, somebody brought all of their literary energy to what is often a dull, rote proceeding,” commented Crain’s friend, Cool for America author Andrew Martin. “What he did is exactly what I try to do, which is I am a very nervous person, but I just sort of make it a part of it. You do the big arms, you make self-deprecating jokes, you try to make it all seem like it’s part of the act.”
The second award of the night, the n+1 Writers’ Fellowship, was presented by Tortorici to critic Tobi Haslett. “Oh, you wrote the exposé about Erin Overbey,” Haslett said when he greeted The Fine Print. “You’re next,” joked Tortorici. (Probably not.) Haslett had spent the night seeing old friends like fellow very tall critic Audrey Wollen, whose apartment in Prospect Lefferts Gardens he took over in January 2021. (Was there a height requirement on the lease?) He pulled aside and introduced n+1 assistant editor Clare Fentress who he’d known in college. “I’m not exciting, don’t worry,” Fentress protested. “I’m a graduate student, the least exciting kind of person on the planet.” Did either want to share any particularly embarrassing recollections of the other’s college days? “We both had such almost painfully dignified college careers that we couldn’t even if we wanted to,” Haslett said.
Haslett’s acceptance speech bordered on the (playfully) indignant. “There’s more to making a magazine than noble visions and a nurturing hand. A magazine is also a graveyard, a vast forbidding necropolis, the desolate final resting place of doomed pitches, slaughtered phrasing, and supercilious queries that rattle their ghostly chains. In short, it’s the whole Gothic drama that is the ‘editing process’ with its atrocities and defeats. So thanks very much for the fellowship, but I’m going to hijack this pious little moment that we’re sharing and bring up a few less than rosy moments in my history with the magazine. I want to talk about what you have actually refused to publish. Number one: Chris Marker. What was wrong with my piece about Chris Marker?” After laying out a litany of killed pieces, he ended on a grace note: “Thank you n+1 for this fellowship and for living up to the legacy of every great little magazine: knowing what you have to kill.”
Another star of the night was Fiasco podcast host Leon Neyfakh’s and New Yorker contributor Alice Gregory’s poodle Mickey, who surveyed the room from a bag slung over Neyfakh’s shoulder. “We had a mishap in my apartment involving some eggs that we left to boil on the stove. We left and the egg was gradually incinerated and produced a lot of smoke. No fire, literally, but a lot of smoke. Anyway, ever since, we’ve been living in various places, because we can’t really be in the apartment. We moved back in last night, but we were in a hotel for a week, so he’s been having a really weird week,” Neyfakh explained. “It’s now happened three times that we’ve gotten emailed or texted about him screaming his head off. So last night we brought him to Rachel Aviv’s book party, because we got an email right as I was leaving my office and I came home and grabbed him and I was like, ‘I’ll just bring him,’ and he was a hit. So tonight we brought him again. This is a little different situation, that’s why I’m hiding him a little bit.” Gregory explained that the noise of the crowd didn’t seem to bother Mickey. “He only reacts to packages, which is why he’s here. Amazon rings and then he barks for four hours,” she said. “He’s just a little capitalist,” ventured Death by Landscape author Elvia Wilk, “he wants a package.”
Among the other media-affiliated attendees were The New Yorker’s Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, The Life of the Mind novelist and critic Christine Smallwood, n+1 senior editor Charles Petersen, Jewish Currents culture editor Ari Brostoff, The Nation associate literary editor Kevin Lozano, n+1 board member Ron Barusch, New Yorker associate editor Marella Gayla, The Drift associate editor Thayer Anderson, n+1 contributor and doctor Laura Kolbe, and n+1 web editor Lisa Borst, who recently hung out in Rome with novelist and translator Francesco Pacifico. “He has this beautiful life. It was really fun to see it. We would go to bar after bar and everyone at the bar would know who he was. Everyone was kind of obsessed with him, but in a sort of healthy Italian way. He’d be like, ‘Oh, that bartender is actually an anarchist philosopher and he thinks I’m a real writer,’” she said. “We went to his co-working space, which was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I went to the Sistine Chapel after I went to the co-working space, and I was like, ‘It’s not as good.’ It was so ramshackle and crazy, it was just great.”
Representing the political crowd and “the people” were Pennsylvania state senator and former n+1 co-editor Nikil Saval and New York state senator Jabari Brisport, both of whom ran with support from the Democrat Socialists of America. “It’s good when you can condense your encounters. I’m in DSA, but also sometimes I’m like, ‘Oh, should I think about art and culture?’” said Rachel Hunter Himes, who has a piece in the current issue of n+1, adding, “It’s good when those things are happening in the same space. It saves me time personally.” Representing the arts were artists Glenn Ligon and James Hoff, who met just before the pandemic on a blind date arranged by fellow artists Byron Kim and Lisa Segal. “They were like, ‘Oh, come to my house for dinner,’” Ligon recalled. “James was there, and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s cute.’”
“The interesting thing about meeting Glenn at that dinner, which was before the pandemic, was that he was already social distancing from me,” Hoff said. “We start talking, and Glenn just gives up in the middle and goes to talk to someone else, and so I was like, ‘Oh, I guess he’s not into me.’” “Because I thought he was straight, so I was like stop embarrassing yourself talking to this straight guy. Don’t be that person,” Ligon explained. “Then a week later, Byron was like, ‘Oh, you should send Glenn some books,’” Hoff said. “I was like, ‘I don’t think he was into me, he was totally social distancing.’ And he was like, ‘Oh no, he just thought you were straight.’ And I was like, ‘Okay that’s not good.’ And he goes, ‘He’s really into skinny, straight, nerdy, white guys.’” “And you’re like, ‘Oh,’” Ligon rejoined. “Is that me?” Hoff finished the sentence.
Publishing power players also came out for the little magazine gathering. “I’m the publisher of HarperCollins, so I have skin in the game,” said Jonathan Burnham, who was accompanied by his husband, chief curator of the Whitney Museum Scott Rothkopf (“I’ll come anywhere he invites me.”). Farrar, Straus and Giroux president and publisher Mitzi Angel seemed content to turn away from her chat with Paris Review top editor Emily Stokes (“You’re the softball guy!”) for a moment to talk about her Shelter Island swims. “I’m actually really scared of deep water, and I’m scared of waves. I just kind of go parallel to the beach,” she said. “I love saltwater more than anything — more than other kinds of water, not more than people.”
Riverhead deputy publisher and n+1 board member Jynne Dilling Martin was accompanied by her partner, former Russian translator Louie Saletan (“computers have replaced me”), and his sister, Riverhead editorial director Rebecca Saletan. (Their brother Will, who has appeared in The Fine Print previously, was nowhere to be found.) Also among the book crowd were Grove deputy publisher Peter Blackstock, Simon & Schuster senior editor Yahdon Israel, FSG editor Jackson Howard, Atria Books editors Loan Le and Natalie Hallak, and One Signal senior editor Nick Ciani.
Representing the other side of publishing was Gernert agent Chris Parris-Lamb, who’s flogging a book by Russian investigative journalist and n+1 contributor Elena Kostyuchenko, who ran afoul of the Russian government after reporting on the war in Ukraine for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. She’s now in Prague, at work on the book, a collection of her investigative pieces from the paper. When she finishes it, he said, Kostyuchenko is returning to Russia to face whatever awaits her. “Say the bidding is going to start at a million dollars,” Parris-Lamb suggested. He was attending with fellow Gernert agent Alia Hanna Habib, who represented The New York Times in the sale of The 1619 Project book series. “I decided to use my middle name when I was 19,” she said, “because I was like, ‘The posh people have three names. What if I throw one in there?’”
A bit after 10 p.m., the ballroom started to empty — “I see famous people leaving,” noted Doten — and the crowd headed to WXOU Radio Bar for the afterparty.
The 2022 season of the New York Media Softball League ended on Central Park’s Great Lawn on Saturday, September 10. It was a long, hard road for the Chartbeat Sharks, whose jerseys proclaimed, “You Ain’t Safe.” After 12 years of competing in the league, they won their first championship in a spectacular 20-2 blowout against the High Times Bonghitters. “We’re here to have fun, but we also started wanting to win a little more,” said eight-year team veteran Will Purcell. “We kind of clicked this season.”
The day started with two extremely competitive semi-finals. The Bonghitters dismantled Forbes 6-3 in a hard-fought bout. “We just got our hearts broken again. We were winning 3-1 and then in the sixth inning, we gave up five. That’s the break,” said Forbes chief content officer and editor Randall Lane. “We’ve been in the playoffs 13 straight years and never won.” Across the lawn, last year’s champions BuzzFeed lost to the Sharks in extra innings. “It’s the greatest defensive slow pitch beer league softball game I’ve ever seen,” BuzzFeed founding editor Dave Stopera said from the dugout. “I haven’t had a heartbreaking game like that since middle school basketball,” BuzzFeed captain Matt “Skip” Kiebus said. “I’m personally just happy that the league stepped up. Last time, we kind of ran through it and this year, everyone was a lot better. Every game that we had, it was tight and it was good and it was really fun. It was one of the most fun start-to-finish seasons that we’ve had since we’ve been in the league.”
The early years of the Sharks were comically ramshackle, according to the team’s original coach Adam Clarkson. “I played with Newsweek for a little while and then I moved over to Chartbeat in 2010. Despite the fact that we are not a media company, but a media services company, I was like maybe we got a shot at getting in here. So I lobbied and they were like, ‘Tell you what: You guys get a field, you got a spot in the league,’” he recalled. “We eventually became the first Brooklyn-based team, at McCarren Park. Nobody wanted to come play us there and we had the ultimate home field advantage, not only because it was a pothole ridden, garbage-strewn experience, but because the teams wouldn’t bring all their best players because we played on Friday night in Brooklyn, and people were like, ‘What’s the L train? Forget it.’” Even so, the struggle then wasn’t necessarily about winning, but getting players on the field. “We would just bring the staff out, ‘Let’s go to the Turkey’s Nest, let’s get margaritas, let’s go to the game, let’s play baseball.’ And we lost badly,” Clarkson said. “I think I probably lost at least 100 games and won maybe a dozen, but we consumed at least 400 Turkey’s Nest margaritas over that time period. One time we had a guy sleep over in McCarren Park after the end of the game. We partied so hard, he slept in McCarren Park.”
In 2017, Clarkson moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and handed off coaching to Mark Davis. “Mark wants to win. That’s the bottom line,” Clarkson said. “None of these guys work for Chartbeat, some of them used to, but only about four of them. And not only did I lose my managerial position, I don’t even get to play anymore because all these guys are way better than me.” Davis plays in two other leagues, the Williamsburg Softball League and the Yorkville Sports Association, and has brought in friends he’s played with there. Some in the league have accused Chartbeat of recruiting inorganically. “Chartbeat’s a team full of ringers,” Forbes’sLane told The Fine Print. But Davis denies this. “Everyone’s worked at Chartbeat, except I think two people,” he said. “That’s what’s neat too, that it’s people who worked at that company and have played on this team for six years.”
The secret this season, according to Davis, was practice and discipline. “I wanted the team to be as prepared as possible and I wanted to go into the first game feeling really comfortable,” he said, “so we practiced every Friday starting in March.” The result was a 9-2 record, including a 15-0 win against the Bonghitters earlier in the season. “The second time they were supposed to play each other they had a cancellation initially and were never were able to reschedule the game,” noted league commissioner Steve Bloom. Going into the final, the Bonghitters knew they had an uphill battle. “Hopefully, we got all of our struggles out of the way in the first five innings of that Forbes game. That last inning, that was awesome. The energy, the line drives, being smart and aggressive but not stupidly aggressive on the bases. That sixth inning was how we need to play every inning this game,” co-manager Mike Safir told his team standing atop a bench. “These guys are aggressive and they’re fast. If the ball falls in, you can’t be lackadaisical about it.”
There was no blithe confidence in the Chartbeat dugout either. “There’s a lot of energy right now, but we have to act with the same amount of discipline we had all season,” Davis told his team from under his camo cap before the game. “Don’t underestimate them,” one Chartbeat player warned another.
The game seemed competitive at first, but in the shocking third inning, Chartbeat ran up runs as if their opponents weren’t even on the field. “I can’t believe you fuckers scored 11 runs in that inning, Jesus Christ,” Safir told Clarkson afterward. “I’m watching, I’m like, ‘Our whole season’s falling apart in one shit inning.’ I mean, hopefully we come back.” By the fifth inning, the Bonghitter’s morale seemed shot. “It may be time for a secret weapon that we have shelved for years: the rally joint,” said 23-year team veteran Damion DaCosta. Jason Mills sparked the joint and passed it around. Meanwhile, the beer was starting to flow plentifully in the Sharks dugout. “We’ve got three more innings, obviously a lot of ball left to play,” Purcell said, “but it’s starting to go a little bit.” Emma Purcell stomped a beer can, flattening it, before running out to play.
The crushing defeat didn’t stop the Bonghitters from handing out joints and coming onto the field to sing “Take Me Out to the Bong Game.” “All of us have been playing together for close to 20 years and most of these teams are half our age,” said Bonghitters pitcher Rob Agueli. “I’m proud of these guys, man. We come out, we have fun, we play the game, and we compete with the young kids. Pretty soon I’ll be running to first in a walker.”
After Chartbeat’s victory, they rushed onto the field celebrating, passing around bottles. It took what seemed like five minutes to corral them for the trophy ceremony. “I want to congratulate you guys on winning the Bloom Cup, named after me,” said Bloom as he handed out individual medals. “There wasn’t a hole in any part of the defense and the lineup,” said Davis. “That’s why we won.”
➾ 7 p.m. Who? Weekly podcast host Bobby Finger will be talking about his debut novel The Old Place with New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights.
➾ 12 p.m. The Silurians Press Club will host a lunch with media reporting legend Ken Auletta at The National Arts Club on Gramercy Park.
➾ 6 p.m. Riverhead Books will host “A Night of Vice” with Marlon James and Deepti Kapoor in The West Village to celebrate Kapoor’s forthcoming novel Age of Vice. “We suggest you wear a touch of gold,” the invitation read.
➾ 7 p.m. Jewish Currents will celebrate the release of their summer issue at Chilo’s in Greenwood. The party is set to feature free, unlicensed psychotherapy.
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