introducing readers to writers since 1995

March 04, 2005

A Whirlwind of Social Activity

by Ron Hogan

Ever since I met Jean Nathan a few months ago at KGB, we've been talking about how great it would be to feature her and The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll, so it was great to catch up with her Wednesday night at Happy Ending and chat for a bit before she read from the book's opening passages, in which she described the stirrings of her memories of Dare Wright's The Lonely Doll and her efforts to track down the book and its author--followed by a later passage which underlined the creepy relationship between Wright and her mother that Nathan discovered during her research. Happy Ending host Amanda Stern paired Nathan off with family friend Gregory Maguire, who read excerpts from Son of a Witch, the forthcoming sequel to Wicked. The evening was musically bookended by singer-songwriter Jeffrey Lewis, whose rambling acoustic songs were pretty funny--although when he sang the one about getting sodomized by Will Oldham on the subway tracks, a couple of us kept looking to the corner of the room where some woman had brought her daughter, who couldn't have been more than seven or eight. (Whether she was a fan of Lewis, Nathan, or Maguire, we'll never know.)

Last night, the Astor Place B&N was packed for Abha Dawesar's reading from Babyji, with a mix of Indian-Americans, more recent Indian immigrants, and New York lesbians--so the sections Dawesar read, in which teenage Babyji gets an instant crush on the mother of one of her classmates, fantasizes about removing women's saris at a cocktail party, and takes the bus across Delhi after a failed pass at another one of her classmates had something for everyone. (Although it wasn't all sunshine and Sappho; the bus ride includes a gritty attempted rape scene that silenced the usually-laughing audience for about five minutes.) Once the lines formed for Dawesar's signing, I jumped on the 6 uptown to join the release party for Kenneth D. Ackerman's Boss Tweed, the first biography in more than a generation of New York's archetypal politician. Ackerman's a great raconteur--I'd never realized before that the U.S. government essentially kidnapped Tweed in order to throw him in prison--and as I started reading the book on the subway back to the Outer Boroughs, I was riveted. Look for Ackerman to show up in these pages again soon!

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