Commitments and Dissents
Turning a page this week: Pat Kiernan, Blake Montgomery, Julia Black, Emily Stewart, Sara Morrison, Vladimir Sorokin, Max Lawton, Mark Krotov, Aaron Timms, Jennifer Wilson, Lisa Borst, John Maher, Andrew Eckholm, Natasha Lewis, Paul Berman, Deborah Meier, Christopher Shay, Sarah Jones, Ross Barkan, Sam Adler-Bell, and many more…
This week might have shifted from hard rains to beautiful sunny days, but the leftist magazine parties keep on coming no matter the weather.
OUT AND ABOUT
On Tuesday night, as the remnants of a hurricane hit New York, The Fine Print gathered with subscribers and friends at Union Pool in Williamsburg to celebrate our first birthday. Mingling indoors and eventually on the patio were NY1 morning anchor Pat Kiernan, NBC News deputy editor for technology Ben Goggin, Gizmodo tech news editor Blake Montgomery, Insider correspondent and former reporter for this newsletter Julia Black, political consultant Peter Feld, Vox reporters Emily Stewart and Sara Morrison, writer and publicist Chris Chafin, financial analyst Reza Sayeed, freelance writer and editor Sam Eifling, freelance writer and editor Aaron Gell, too-many-affiliations to list Sid Mahanta, and others whose names this reporter didn’t catch because, technically, he wasn’t working.
Wednesday evening was crowded with more media events than this column could cover. While Jacobin hosted a party to launch their latest issue with economist Adam Tooze at Mayday Space, n+1, New York Review Books, and Dalkey Archive hosted a party for Vladimir Sorokin, perhaps the greatest living Russian novelist, at n+1’s office in Greenpoint. Sorokin, who is visiting from Berlin, has been on a packed tour of the East Coast with his translator Max Lawton to celebrate the “Sorokinaissance,” which started this year with the publication of new translations of two Sorokin novels, Telluria and Their Four Hearts, and will continue with many more over the next several years. The day before, n+1 co-editor and publisher Mark Krotov had taken the Amtrak down to Philly with Sorokin and Lawton to moderate an event at the Parkway Central Library. “At the event, I was like, ‘I’m definitely not asking this guy about Putin and the war.’ He’s on the right side of it, but I just think it’s boring,” Krotov said, “You can’t be like, ‘How does it feel being a prophet?’ And of course, the first question from the audience was ‘How does it feel to be a prophet?’ What is he gonna say?” This party was set to be a lot more laid back. “I was just like I want Vladimir — he’s already very moved by the enthusiasm in the U.S., and in Philly he was super thrilled that people came out. It was gross and rainy — but I was like, ‘I want him to be in a room of American young people,’” said Krotov, “because I think this is the greatest gift you can give to someone from the Soviet Union.”
On the night, Sorokin seemed like he was getting a little worn out by the tour. He and Lawton came from a steak dinner, and Sorokin stood sipping water from a small plastic cup, speaking so quietly and sparingly that this reporter’s recorder hardly picked him up. “New York is a city where you can really fill up,” he said, and looked forward to spending part of the next evening at the Russian Samovar, whose late owner he’d met on previous trips. Some in the crowd guessed that his apparent timidity wasn’t simply a result of exhaustion. “There’s also something with being a fucking special writer: A certain type of good writer is not really someone who wants to socialize,” ventured Aaron Timms who recently reviewed Telluria in The New Republic. “We’re all obviously crap writers who just want to get drunk, and writing is our conduit to getting drunk, whereas he’s actually good.”
Timms wasn’t the only Sorokin reviewer in the crowd. New York Times Books contributing essayist Jennifer Wilson reviewed Their Four Hearts and Telluria in Harper’s. Though she spent much of her mid-twenties in Moscow, she was nervous about approaching the novelist. “I feel like writers, when you tell them you’re a critic, they start complaining to you about all their reviews,” she said. “I wrote a positive review of the books. Still, I have the critic smell on me.” She found herself on the other side of that dynamic when a conversation with Timms moved beyond the relative merits of Australian and Georgian wine. “You mentioned me in your review, not positively,” Wilson said. “What did I say?” Timms asked. “Mine was in Harper’s,” Wilson said. “I think I quoted the headline,” Timms said, “that’s not your doing.” Wilson laughed. “My editor pushed me in that direction,” Timms protested. “She was like, I think this should be the focus of the piece.” What would his editor think of that description? “I love Laura [Marsh], put that on the record,” he hastened to say. “We all love Laura, let’s just get that out there,” Wilson added.
“It’s a different world here,” marveled Deep Vellum founder and Dalkey Archive executive director Will Evans, who was visiting from Texas, later in the evening. “A critic came up and told me that they met another critic who referenced that critic’s piece and a party reporter was there, and I was like, ‘Wow, that is the most New York thing I’ve ever heard.’”
Astra deputy editor Samuel Rutter, wearing a necklace with a cowboy boot pendant made for him by a friend from his stint in Nashville, had just flown back from Australia. “I had a layover in LAX, which is where you go to come from there, and there’s this whole martini thing going on at this airport bar,” he said. “Peak of glamour,” commented recently appointed Baffler web editor Zachariah Webb, who wore sleek penny loafers. “Horrible,” Rutter clarified. “First thing that happens, one lady, she’s sitting next to me, she’s looking at the menu and she just turns to the bartender and she goes, ‘Can you do a blended Midori sour?’ And he goes, ‘We don’t got a blender and we don’t got Midori.’ And then she asked for a vodka martini, very dirty, without vermouth. I’m like, ‘Ma’am, that is not a martini.’” “That is a jar of olives,” Webb said. “That’s like a Russian pickleback,” Rutter said. “They should be serving that here,” Webb pointed out.
Filling out the room were n+1 web editor Lisa Borst (who, with Krotov, is looking forward to curating a screening series of films from 2004 to celebrate n+1’s twentieth anniversary. “It’s going to be eight screenings of Spanglish in 35 millimeter,” Krotov said. “The more scratched and shitty the better, I want it to be a truly brutal punk thing,” Borst said. “So it just looks like an Adam Sandler no wave movie,” Krotov agreed.), New Republic staff writer and not-terribly-accurate Nobel predictor Alex Shephard, The Baffler’s extravagantly dressed literary editor J.W. McCormack (“I think about you every time I think about the oil crisis,” he told Krotov. “That’s the most flattering thing I ever heard,” Krotov replied.), Book Post newsletter editor and Joseph Brodsky estate executor Ann Kjellberg, New York Review of Books publicist Nicholas During, Colin Ross, who is hosting a show of drawings inspired by Sorokin’s Their Four Heartsat Eyes Never Sleep, the gallery in his apartment (Does he just fling open the doors? “It has to be slightly more tactical because my supers live next door.”), Publishers Weekly news editor John Maher (“My first job in media, I was a local reporter and I was investigating an incredibly powerful figure in local politics who had formerly served in the House who has since become a major figure in Republican Party politics in New York state,” he said. “The first time I had a vodka shot, I had 12 because I was having them with the Russian mob that was trying to stop me from doing this story.” “I’m glad you’re here today with us,” rejoined n+1intern Francesca Billington.), n+1 contributor Andrew Eckholm who recently had happy hour drinks with Krotov that got slightly out of hand (“This is a spirited young man who’s open to the world. I’m not dead yet, but I came very close,” Krotov explained), and the bookstore guy who has appeared in this column previously. “No urbit, no waterfalls, everyone is doing something racist, but you can’t tell,” ran his jokey review of the party. “Please don’t run that — actually, I don’t care. I work for a living, none of this shit matters.”
Sorokin quietly dipped out before 9:30 p.m. “He’s almost 70,” his translator Lawton explained. “He wakes up at 6 a.m. and watches golf.” Lawton, who like several other attendees graduated from Columbia in 2016, wasn’t tired, but some of the logistics were starting to gnaw at him. “Planning stuff can be a little tiring,” he said. “I don’t want to cut Vladimir loose into the city. He’d be fine, but it’s more difficult than you would think, especially without a phone.” To take advantage of the nice weather at the end of this week, before he and Sorokin head to the West Coast, he was planning on taking the novelist to Brighton where they’d eat manti at Kashkar Cafe and drink kefir on the beach.
On Thursday, in the spacious SoHo apartment of the late feminist writer Ann Snitow and her husband Daniel Goode, generations of Dissent readers, contributors, and supporters gathered to celebrate the launch of the magazine’s latest issue, in-person for the first time since 2020, with readings, red wine, empanadas, and chatter. Editor Natasha Lewis, who introduced the readings from contributors to the issue including Jaz Brisack, Siddhartha Deb, William Kornblum, Katha Pollitt, Nick Serpe, and Namwali Serpell, later introduced The Fine Print to two of the magazine’s longest-serving editorial board members. Deborah Meier, who had been on the board since 1964, recalled the somewhat more tempered Dissent parties from around the time she joined. “Lots of the parties were at my house,” she said. “My daughter once said she couldn’t tell if it was a party or a meeting.” Paul Berman, who the magazine’s founding editor Irving Howe asked to join the editorial board in 1987, agreed that the parties had livened up. “The politics is worse, but the parties are better. You can’t have everything,” he said. “What’s troubling about Dissent now is that it’s too popular. Dissent‘s role is to struggle and be marginal and dissent. When it began to become fashionable among young people — everybody wants to come to the party — then there’s the problem. Irving did not present himself as somebody trying to be popular.” Meier nodded. “He was trying to be right,” she said.
Former Dissent editor and current Nation literary editor David Marcus walked in after the readings, no longer wearing the boot he’d been saddled with this summer following a basketball injury. Had he gotten out on a court since it came off a couple weeks ago? “Not yet, but I did climb the stairs because the elevator wasn’t working,” he said. How did this party compare to previous Dissent gatherings in this apartment? “They were often very drunk. This will get there, it just takes time. We’ve got a couple hours before somebody’s on the floor,” he said. “One time we got a paramedic called.”
Crowding the room were seasoned party reporting subject David Shor, Nation deputy editor Christopher Shay, New York senior writer Sarah Jones, New York editor Brandon Sanchez (who looked like he’d gotten frosted tips but had just dyed his hair blonde and let it grow out), New York contributor Ross Barkan (“I once walked with my friend from the northern tip of the Bronx all the way down into southern Brooklyn.”), Know Your Enemy podcast co-host Sam Adler-Bell (“I’m not being deliberately boring.”), poet and essayist Kay Gabriel (“I technically live at Nowadays. It’s weird to be a shill for a particular venue, but I really like it.”), Harper’s associate editor Elena Saavedra Buckley (“Now I live in one apartment, as opposed to hopping around sublets forever. I have lived in 11 apartments over the last four years, which has not been very fun.”), Harper’s assistant editors Maya Perry and Lake Micah (“I’m trying to steal a tote,” Micah said), Jacobin top editor Micah Uetricht and staff writers Branko Marcetic and Alex Press, Africa Is a Country books editor Anakwa Dwamena (who recently returned from a year-long fellowship in Ghana), Jennifer Wilson (at a media party for the second night in a row), and a wall filled with drums.
➾ 6:00 p.m. Annie Ernaux, this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, will be speaking with writer Kate Zambreno at Albertine on the Upper East Side.
➾ 7:00 p.m. Former Sports Illustrated executive editor Charles Leerhsen will be launching his new book Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain with a conversation with former New York Timesstaff writer Julie Scelfo at the Powerhouse Arena bookstore in Dumbo.
➾ 6:30 p.m. The Nation will celebrate publisher emeritus Victor Navasky’s 90th birthday at The New York Society for Ethical Culture on the Upper West Side. Speakers are set to include Katrina vanden Heuvel, Randall Kennedy, Calvin Trillin, Amy Wilentz, Jamie Raskin, Eric Foner, Laila Al-Arian, Zoya Qureshi, Edward Miliband, and D. D. Guttenplan.
➾ 7:30 p.m. John Freeman will be launching the latest issue of his annual journal Freeman’s at McNally Jackson Seaport.
➾ 7 p.m. Astra Magazine will host a party in Chinatown to celebrate the launch of its second issue. Whispers have circulated about amateur theatrics, featuring Wayne Koestenbaum and Brontez Purnell, that will open the night.
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