Avast! Boats and Zines
Making waves this week: Olivia Kan-Sperling, Dean Kissick, Lily McInerny, Amalia Ulman, Andrew Norman Wilson, Ezra Marcus, Arjun Ram Srivatsa, Beckett Rosset, Jessie Kindig, Lisa Borst, Marco Roth, and many more…
Every great story has its maritime interlude, and so must this column. This week we laid off the sports and watched life course through the city at a debut novelist’s boat party and a DIY West Village throwback zine launch party.
OUT AND ABOUT
The yacht left the dock about 25 minutes after 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Just under 131 guests were taking a sunset cruise out from Greenpoint and around the Statue of Liberty to celebrate the launch of Paris Review assistant editor Olivia Kan-Sperling’s debut novella Island Time. “I know you have to publicize your book because you have to, but if I did something, I wanted it to be something that relates to the book,” she told The Fine Print near the start of the night, as four giant pitchers of mixed drinks were starting to empty for the first time. “Nominally, it’s a fan fiction of Kendall Jenner and Lil Peep,” she said. “She’s so blank, and Lil Peep, on the other hand, has an extremely dense, emotional — even without his actual story of dying, there’s so much around him and his images.”
The inclusion of the rapper, who overdosed on fentanyl and Xanax shortly after turning 21 in 2017, resonated with attendees. “Invoking the legacy of Lil Peep is a bold move, but it’s one that means something to me,” said writer and artist Adam Lehrer. “I was a big fan of the music. I also knew people that worked with him. He’s interesting to me as this guy that straddled the millennial-Gen Z cusp. I’ve gotten into interesting conversations with people debating whether he’s the last millennial or the first Gen Z.” The main difference between the two, in Lehrer’s view, is “the idea that there could possibly be a future worth believing in versus not, and how that relates to hedonism and partying.” Lehrer claimed Lil Peep for the millennial side. “Peep’s thing was that he believed in something enough to be depressed,” he said. “Cynicism or nihilism is a way of escaping a true depth.”
Once the boat was well underway, Kan-Sperling’s disembodied voice broke through the conversational din over the PA. “This is your author Olivia, and I wanted to sort of film noir voice-over style read from my book,” she said and began to intone: “One morning, Kendall Jenner wakes up. We zoom in on beautiful almond eyes opening. They are animated by a mysterious twinkle.”
Asked where the reading was taking place, Spike New York editor Dean Kissick said the author was upstairs. The eerie reading carried an echo of Kan-Sperling’s years at Brown. “There’s something about Providence, a sort of fog of madness. These optical hypnotic effects emanate from that city,” said her old college roommate, graphic novelist Liby Hays. What’s responsible for that? “Maybe pollution in the water, or the Old Ones. It’s the birthplace of cosmic horror because H.P. Lovecraft is from there,” she said. “It’s very creative, but it’s also scary.”
There was a spectrum of sea legs aboard. “This is my first party on a boat,” said Lily McInerny, an actress who starred in Palm Trees and Power Lines which premiered at Sundance earlier this year. “We didn’t eat before we got here — next time.” She popped a bottle of champagne to everybody’s surprise, including, seemingly, her own. “We didn’t forget the booze,” she said. “Last summer I was on a sailboat which was such a chaotic experience,” said artist Emily Shari. “I had no idea how difficult it is, you have to duck every five minutes.”
Software engineer Sofiya Volobuyeva had been to a boat party in June. “It had a DJ, loud music, speakers everywhere. I was on mushrooms,” she said. This wouldn’t be her only glimpse of the water this week. “A Ukrainian woman and her two-year-old daughter moved in with me today. They’re staying until they can get on their feet,” she said. “I’ll probably take them to Brighton Beach on Saturday.”
Artist Anastasia Denos had recently navigated Greece by sea. “I just took a boat from Milos to Athens, it was a ferry, and then before that I took a much faster smaller boat from Paros,” she said. “This summer is a lot of boats.” El Planeta director Amalia Ulman had been on another boat over the weekend. “It was a very fancy boat,” she said. “This is kind of trashy, in a good way.” Water dripped out of a light on the lower deck.
Artist Andrew Norman Wilson hadn’t been on a boat since last summer when he joined his uncle on a literary tugboat tour around Philadelphia, but he’d recently passed a sojourn on Grecian shores. He’d been talking up his recently completed script at a networking event. (The logline, saved on his phone’s lock screen, runs: “A fugitive hacker hiding as a Hollywood Boulevard impersonator is recruited by a rogue FBI agent for a black ops mission to steal millions from a debauched doomsday prepper’s desert compound.”) There he met Willem Dafoe, who he says accidentally showed him a nude photo of his wife. “He was trying to show me a picture of his pet goat, Black Phillip, named after the goat in Robert Eggers’s The Witch,” recalled Wilson, “and he was like, ‘Oh, that’s my wife.’”
Milling around the boat’s spacious levels were New York Times and New York contributor Ezra Marcus, Forever magazine co-founder Madeline Cash, artist Cristine Brache, owner and director of Lubov Gallery Francisco Correa Cordero, who recently put on a show by fellow guest Connor Marie Stankard, platform engineer Patrick Steadman, who’d helped a Toronto novelist catch a pigeon that morning (“It’s complicated. You have to do it early in the morning when they’re hungry, you’ve gotta be low to the ground, use small seeds.”), The Vacation novelist Garth Miró, Our Struggle podcast co-host Drew Ohringer, Jell-O Girls novelist Allie Rowbottom, and Body High novelist Jon Lindsey, who mooned a passing ferry. “They looked like they enjoyed it,” he said.
Arjun Ram Srivatsa, head of video at Pitchfork and former co-host of the media podcast Diversity Hire, was perched on the upper balcony’s side. He’d just returned from his publication’s music festival in Chicago. “I interviewed like 20 artists. It was wonderful, the headliners and shit. I met Earl Sweatshirt backstage. It blew my mind. It was sick,” he said. “I was working nonstop. After I would go to the clubs and do some footwork until 4 a.m. and then I’d wake up at eight and go to work. So I’ve only slept 12 hours in the past three days. Now I’m on a boat.” He sat next to Beckett Rosset, a son of Barney Rosset, who founded the Grove Press in 1947, published Samuel Beckett and the American Beats, and helped establish legal precedents for defenses against obscenity laws by publishing D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. “Ultimately, the best party is when you’re surrounded by everyone you know, and you talk to one person the whole night,” said Srivatsa, looking at Rosset. “I think I found my person.”
“I feel like we’re in fucking Miami,” Rosset said.
We were at sea, not only literally, argued Scott Litts, who works with Kan-Sperling’s publisher ExPat Press. The cultural wave of the pandemic’s peak was receding. “There was a lull in energy, of artistic imagination, where things took on a very realistic mode, like Kmart realism, whatever that OG alt-lit stuff was, kind of drab and a little boring,” he said. “It’s over, and everyone recognizes that.” Recently, he’s gone into creative overdrive, writing, prepping a film, and working on music, trying to capture an element of the fantastical in each medium. In part, his frenzy is a response to what he sees as an opening in the wake of the loss and displacement of the pandemic. “I’m so busy because I’m embracing that moment where big feelings are natural feelings,” he said. “I never cared about relationships, but in the past two, three years, I’m way more oriented towards relationships. I’ve always been kind of stone cold, but I’m way more open in my art and in my life.”
About 40 minutes before the boat was due to back ashore at 10 p.m., a crew member asked Litts if the boat should pull in or stay out, and he opted for the remaining minutes asea. By then, the boat had run out of plastic cups, and a card game was on the verge of breaking out on the lower deck. Kan-Sperling seemed to have mixed feelings. “This is such a nightmare,” she said. “I’m never having a wedding.” The first guests walked off just before 10 p.m. and filed out past cars lined up at the Skyline Drive-In, which shares the yacht’s boatyard, watching Thor: Love and Thunder.
On Thursday night, around 9 p.m., Rosset was rushing around a cavernous space behind a large unmarked door in the West Village. He set up a DJ station, adjusted the lighting, and climbed up among the chairs hanging from the ceiling to make sure the disco ball spun just right. He’d been throwing parties in the space for a couple of months but will probably slow down soon. “My neighbor wants to murder me right now,” he said. “We had one party, which I didn’t even have anything to do with where they called the cops. It was this kid’s 30th birthday party. There were 300 people here. There was a DJ from Paris. It was too loud, you know? I don’t do shit like that, so nobody complains, but because of that one thing: ‘Do you have a license to sell liquor?’” He’d taken over the space after his friend and landlady Mary Kaplan passed away in November. “She was a kook and a hoarder,” he said. “She bought this in 1981 and never used it. It used to be a bar when she bought it and she let the liquor license lapse. And then she filled it with shit because she was a hoarder. So I basically cleared it out.”
Never in his life had Rosset thrown parties so frequently, but he did have some experience. “I worked in production for 15 years for fashion. I did after parties for Chanel, Ralph, Marc, you name it,” he said, “multimillion-dollar three-week build-outs for a four-hour party where Prince would perform or something. And then I bartended for seven years in a variety of places and then I worked for a crazy rich guy.” Tonight’s party was for the launch of the summer issue of Verso Books editor and Lux Magazine contributing editor Jessie Kindig’s zine Vole Prochaine. “It’s very old school ’90s, no website, no bylines, no Substack. There’s an email list, but very basic,” Kindig said. She does all the layouts herself “on the kitchen table with a glue stick,” and distributes the zine wherever she goes, from Brooklyn to Santa Fe to Seattle. “I wanted to do something with publishing that was fun. And I also was interested in short pieces of writing that made you think differently about your species-being,” she said. “Generally, I write more serious kind of historical essays — I used to be a history professor — for The Baffler, for n+1, for Boston Review, and this is a wholly different kind of writing that didn’t make sense to my editors. It didn’t look like my other writing at all, so I wanted to place to put it,” she said. “Happily, now some of my animal writing is coming out in Orion.”
Lisa Borst, n+1’s web editor, was excited about the vintage zine vibe. “Yesterday, I was at the Prelinger Library in San Francisco and I was reading this book called Factsheet Five that this guy Mike Gunderloyput together in the ’90s, where he read basically every zine that was being produced, which is a sort of astounding,” she said. “I was thinking about the heyday of zines, I feel really sad that I missed it. I love that Jessie works for a very institutionalized and big publisher, but then has this thing on the side.” She was also excited to check out the space, which she’d heard about but had never visited, though she’s frequently in the neighborhood. “Sometimes I house sit for Vivian Gornick, who lives around the corner,” she said, “and I’m always like, who’s trying to sleep in the West Village?”
Dogs wandered the dance floor, as did writers and media types. Joni Mitchell chronicler David Yaffe was coming to the space for the second night in a row, having attended a party for Matthew Gasda’s play Berlin Story the night before. Also passing under the light of the disco ball were Pitchfork’s Srivatsa and Brother Alive novelist Zain Khalid. By the time The Fine Print left, the dancing was only intermittent. “As a person integrally connected to this event, I kind of wish more people were dancing,” said Kindig’s partner, n+1 co-founder Marco Roth. What was he going to do about it? “I’ll dance my ass off, eventually.”
➾ TBD If they find a place to play, The Drift will face off against Harper’s softball team. “It’s prestige versus clout,” Harper’s assistant editor and Drift associate editor Lake Micah told The Fine Print in June.
➾ 8 p.m. On the East River Park softball fields, The Wall Street Journal plays BuzzFeed.
➾ 8 p.m. The High Times Bonghitters take on Forbes on the Riverside Park softball fields.
➾ 9:30 p.m. Animator Lena Greene will host the Montez Got Talent talent show at KGB Bar in the East Village. Srivatsa’s looking forward to it. “I shot my own karaoke video,” he said.
➾ 7 p.m. Tacky essayist Rax King will host the latest edition of her Girl City reading series at No Aloha in East Williamsburg. Among the readers will be Luster novelist Raven Leilani, X novelist Davey Davis, literally show me a healthy person novelist Darcie Wilder, Pop Song author Larisa Pham, and Vanity Fair staff writer Delia Cai, who will be reading from her forthcoming novel Central Places.
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