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June 17, 2004

Yesterday's Blume's-Day Celebration

by Ron Hogan

Greg Gilderman is, he told the packed crowd at hip East Village club Fez, "a heterosexual male who likes Judy Blume." A chance reading of Forever changed his life at the age of nine, but it was It's Not the End of the World--which he compares favorably to Catcher in the Rye--that's meant the most to him over the years. Knowing that a lot of other young writers were, whether they admit it or not, shaped by Blume's novels for children and teens, Gilderman and a couple friends put together a tribute...and almost got Blume herself to attend. Though family obligations kept her away, she wrote in an email he shared with the audience, "here's to teen angst, and here's to angst for all of us--without it, I might never have started to write!"

YA writer Kristen Kemp started off by explaining that she tells people she writes "books like Judy Blume's...all about boys and bras and boobs." By the time she finished her short story about a ninth-grade girl upset that her mother's taking her out of town for the holidays when she was supposed to go to this big party where the hottest boy in the school was going to kiss her, the audience was in tears from the laughter. Novelist and sex columnist Amy Sohn took things even higher with "John Hughes, J'Accuse," an indictment of those '80s teen romances that filled her head with unrealistic expectations.

Actress Mary Purdy did a scene from her one-woman show "Judy Blume Owes Me," about her nine-year wait to grow out of "the Itty Bitty Titty Committee," followed by Lynn "Breakup Girl" Harris, author of the new media boom satire Miss Media, who shared an article she wrote for Knot about her dad and what it was like to be the daughter of a world-famous linguist ("Sure, he was a heartbeat away from Noam Chomsky, but that's not a enormous asset in terms of fifth-grade street cred").

"Starring Miriam R. Parker as Herself" came next, in which nine-year-old Miriam discovered that "love and other indoor sports" is not an appropriate way to sign a thank-you note to your great-aunt. Jennifer Abbott was prepared to compare Blubber to Moby Dick, except that she'd never read the latter "and I'm not really sure I'm down with that sort of writing." So she just focused on Blubber, whose protagonist learns "life isn't fair and girls are evil--which is all I've ever learned, too."

Teen novelist Amy K. wrapped things up with a scene from Focus on This, in which a precocious teen who's starring in a reality series filmed at a high school in New Jersey fends off an advance from one of the show's producers in a locked car. After that, a quick song by Rob Paravonian called "The Geek Never Gets the Girl" cracked the audience up one last time (especially after he forgot his own second verse), and that was it until the next Fez author tribute in August...for Charles Bukowksi.

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