The Smart Set: Lauren Cerand’s weekly events

The Smart Set is a weekly feature, compiled and posted by Lauren Cerand, that usually appears Mondays at 12:30 pm, and highlights the best of the week to come. Special favor is given to New York’s independent booksellers and venues, and low-cost and free events. Please send details to Ms. Cerand at lauren [at] by the Thursday prior to publication. Due to the volume of submissions, events cannot be considered unless the date appears in the subject line of your message.

The “Summer Lovin’” Edition

MON, JUN 29: New Yorker editor Ben Greenman wraps up his tour for Please Step Back, with a talk on indie publishing and creative collaborations — include his recent limited editions for Jack Spade and Hotel St. George — with Opium’s Todd Zuniga. Afterwards, we’ll all go out for a drink, and I’ll be free from professional obligations requiring me to appear in public for six weeks. Cheers to that [Full disclosure, as always: I am Ben's publicist]. At Barnes & Noble, Tribeca (corner of Warren and Greenwich). 7PM, FREE.

TUE, JUN 30: Join Suketu Mehta, Simon Winchester and Lewis Lapham for short readings and a wine reception to celebrate the launch of the Travel issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, at Idlewild Books. 7PM, FREE; rsvp to In Brooklyn, ” Afghanistan Stories, a fundraiser for war orphans in Kabul, at Belleville Lounge, 332 5th St (at 5th Ave) in Park Slope. Introduction by David Ellis Dickerson, who has opened for David Sedaris and appeared on NPR’s ‘This American Life.’ Hosted by Veterans for Afghanistan founder and director, Kristen L. Rouse. Includes Masha Hamilton, author and founder of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, and Marco Reininger, whom you might have seen in Newsweek along with Stephen Colbert.” 8PM, “$10 suggested donation, + 1 drink/food item minimum.”

And then…

JULY 5: “Cumbia became popular in Colombia in the 1950s — a mix of African and indigenous rhythms, it quickly spread to the rest of Latin America and became especially popular in Mexico, Peru and Argentina where it was adapted to fit the local taste… From Monterey’s rebajada to Buenos Aires’ digital cumbia, young musicians are recycling their grandparents’ music and launching a global musical wave reminiscent of the late 1970s Ska movement. WFMU and Barbes Records are joining forces to present two of North Americas pre-eminent cumbia bands. Very Be Careful from LA and Chicha Libre from Brooklyn — as well as DJs (tba) representing old school and digital cumbia.” At The Bell House. 8PM, $10.

JULY 8: Amanda Stern’s Happy Ending Reading & Music Series at Joe’s Pub explores “CONFESSION & JEALOUSY, STARRING: Nick Laird, Binnie Kirshenbaum and Kevin Canty. MUSICAL GUEST: Elvis Perkins.” 7PM, $15 tickets.

JULY 11: “The Museum of Arts and Design and Museum of the Moving Image have announced the launch of a new film series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the French New Wave. The series, entitled French New Wave Essentials, will present the best and most influential films of this period, many being shown in recently restored 35mm prints. Ranging from timeless masterpieces such as Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows to rarely seen works including Agnes Varda’s films Cleo from 5 to 7 and Le Bonheur, screenings will be held at the Museum of Arts and Design at 2pm and 4pm each Saturday and Sunday from July 11 through August 30.”

JULY 12: The maverick hipster indie pranksters behind Featherproof bring “The Dollar Store Show Super Summer Tour” to The Slipper Room. Essential. 8PM, $1.

JULY 15: Samuel Delany reads at KGB. 7PM, FREE. At jen bekman, “Summer Reading” opens. 6-8PM, FREE.

JULY 20: “Little House on the Bowery Event: Bluestockings, 7pm, Derek McCormack reads from The Show That Smells (w/ Edmund White)” (via Dennis Cooper).

JULY 22: Jessica Hopper presents The Girls Guide to Rocking at Barnes & Noble, Greenwich Village. Related: Sasha Frere-Jones at The New Yorker wonders what it’s like to be a girl in a band and compares the new Sonic Youth single to Hopper’s infomercial. 7:30PM, FREE.

JULY 31: “Sean Dorsey, winner of two Isadora Duncan Dance Awards and the Goldie Award for Performance, and a stellar cast of dancers chase the naked truth in Uncovered: The Diary Project. Using text from actual, real-life diaries, Uncovered’s powerful dances reveal lives and stories that history has tried to erase. Out spill diary secrets, bathhouse antics, outrageous love, pop idols, misadventures, impossible courage and the importance of documenting and sharing our history.” At Dixon Place as part of the HOT! Festival Queer Performance and Culture. 8PM, $20 tickets.

AUGUST 6: At Revolution Books, Melvin Van Peebles’ book release party for Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha, the new graphic novel by the legendary filmmaker, playwright, actor and artist. 7PM, FREE.

AUGUST 18:Upstairs at the Square” presents Regina Spektor (Far) and Kurt Andersen (Reset), with host Katherine Lanpher at the Union Square Barnes & Noble [Full disclosure as always: I am very involved with this series]. 6PM doors, 7PM show, FREE.

ONGOING: Lover, at On Stellar Rays through July 23 (when there will be a closing party from 6-8), Iran Inside Out at the Chelsea Art Museum, and of course, if you haven’t seen Japanther live, your life isn’t fun yet, but there’s a remedy for that; catch the duo at an upcoming show.

Go somewhere new, make mistakes worth repeating, take a chance or two. The Smart Set returns after Labor Day.

Pulling Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain off the shelf

My father-in-law — a warm, funny, and brilliant man of idiosyncratic passions, the only person I know who’s read Twain’s Is Shakespeare Dead? and enjoys it as much as I do — was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last fall.

It’s a terrible disease (and rare, except for those who, like him, were exposed to Agent Orange), but treatments have improved and it was caught at an early stage. We are all crossing our fingers.

While in the hospital last week, he told me that he’s reading Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.

I’ve started and abandoned the novel several times over the years, but I pulled it off the bookshelf a few days ago and am determined to read along with him, this time being mindful of A.S. Byatt’s experience:

my own early readings of The Magic Mountain, impeded by scholarly earnestness … and baffled by an inadequate translation, quite failed to see how funny, as well as ironic and subtle, much of the argumentation and debate is.

Byatt concedes that “an enormous proportion of the novel consists of bravura descriptions of battling ideas, and it is fashionable now to dismiss Mann as a ‘dry’ (even dessicated) ‘novelist of ideas,’ as though that description meant that he did not understand human feeling, or passion, or tragedy.”

Yet she wonders if “novelists in general give proportionately less space to intellectual passions than their power in society warrants.” After all, she says, “[p]eople do think, and they do live and die for thoughts, as well as for jealousy or sex, or erotic or parental love.”

You can read (most of) Byatt’s introduction to The Magic Mountain here. The image above is of the Schatzalp — originally an art nouveau luxury sanitorium, and now a hotel — where the novel is set. (Petya writes to say that it’s pretty affordable — around $100 per night, possibly including breakfast and dinner — in the off-season.)

After the Ford-Rhys affair: a correspondence

Today Granta posts my exchange with Alexander Chee about Jean Rhys’ and Ford Maddox Ford’s affair and the vengeful novels they wrote afterward.

The level of acrimony packed into Quartet and When the Wicked Man is comparable to that of the Philip Roth-Claire Bloom book-off, if the Bloom character in I Married a Communist had not only been cast as a hopeless drunk but been called a “devil,” a “malignity,” a “blackamoor,” and a tramp.

The beginning of each of our four letters:

  • Alex’s to me: “I am imagining Jean Rhys finally holding the printed edition of The Left Bank and Other Stories, with its long strange preface by Ford Madox Ford. The preface begins with Ford describing his childhood in Paris, spending hard winters there, hating Paris, and then he gives a long description of Paris, and after fifteen pages, after talking about Parisians and the Rive Gauche, just when you have no idea who he is anymore, or why you would care, he finally says something about her.”
  • My response: “Isn’t Ford’s interminable preface to The Left Bank and Other Stories hilarious? To me it encapsulates his attitude toward Rhys, not only as a writer but as a lover. He wanted to nurture his protégé, and he did in many ways, but these over-the-top efforts to manage and groom and modulate threatened to steamroll the individuality right out of her. Or at least they would have if she’d actually been as weak as she pretended to be. What praise he finally offers for her fiction — “a terrifying instinct and a terrific — almost lurid! — passion for stating the case of the underdog” — seems to vibrate equally with excitement and dread.
  • Alex’s response: “Ford’s mysteriously terrible novel, When the Wicked Man, made no sense to me at all until I realized it resembled, very closely, a kind of story I read from male students who are closeted. They write about women with little if any insight, their central character is always a man trying to be romantically successful, and he has a best friend, competing with him for the attentions of the same woman. Of course, if the friend is to have success with the woman this means the central character will fail to do so, and this cannot happen. And, all of the heat in the language is around the men.”
  • My second response: “Ford would be so disappointed by your reading. “Sir, I am a thoroughly manly person,” he might say. He once wrote those very words to the editor of The New Age.”
  • The affair actually spawned four competing accounts — not just Rhys’ and Ford’s novels, but another by Rhys’ husband, John Lenglet, and a section in the memoir of the painter Stella Bowen, Ford’s long-time partner and the mother of his daughter. Read the rest here.

    See also: my review of Lilian Pizzichini’s new Rhys biography; Alex on discovering Rhys “when I was tired of what I was”; Rhys and the melding of fact and invention in fiction; Rhys on changing a novel’s “morbid” ending; the writing, burning, and rewriting of Wide Sargasso Sea; and Marlon James on Rhys. Addendum: Victoria Mixon compares Rhys’ and Ford’s affair with the relationship between H.G. Wells and Rebecca West.