The Booky Man: A night with Phillips, Tower, Wray…and a few vampires

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I had many questions in 2009, last year of the “OOps” decade. One of my most-asked: Will it ever end?

Finally, it has, thank goodness. It slumped off over the horizon to come no more, a glutted slug of a year.

Good riddance.

This first week of a new decade, a server in a favorite Mexican restaurant seemed very much in tune with my hope for the zeitgeist-to-come. Alberto smiled broadly when I complimented him on how quickly the meal arrived at the table.

“Of course!” he nodded. “It’s 2010!”

Here, then, to 2010, Alberto. A year when everyone feels more excited and hopeful about everything.

Still, pilgrim, as we walk whistling from the valley of the morbidly obese shadow of the 2000s into the sunny vale ahead, I wish to commemorate one very good event that took place last year.

The occasion was a notable literary reading in Manhattan, back last May, at Amanda Stern’s NYC public reading series, Happy Endings.

The event, at Joe’s Pub, featured three of the brightest up-and-coming voices in today’s fiction—Arthur Phillips (Prague, The Song Is You), Wells Tower (Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned) and John Wray (The Right Hand of Sleep, Lowboy). Musical entertainment came courtesy of a little group called Vampire Weekend. All for a paltry $15.

Now that’s entertainment. At these prices (made even sweeter with some handy frequent flyer miles that got me to New York), I could even afford tickets for two NYC-area Paste writers I’ve grown to admire, Montana Wojczuk and Justin Taylor.

There they sat in a booth with me that night, smart and good-hearted, admiring three of America’s other very best young writers as they read astonishing works, clowned, and filled a night with great memories. I look forward to joyfully hauling up this recollection in years to come. I’ll whack it with my memory like a piñata, see the remembered good times spill out.

Why this column? Maybe I’m a little peeved that Lady Gaga played here in Atlanta recently, two shows, packed houses, outrageous ticket prices, more outrageous scalping. I got stuck in traffic. I took the chance to ask a young man passing by what he thought of Gaga’s show.

“Big camel toe!” he yelled. “Nasty!”

Saul had his thousands. David had his tens of thousands.

I love Lady Gaga. I don’t begrudge her own tens of thousands. But I also wait for the day the gifted young writers who read to about 75 people at Joe’s last May have their tens of millions.

That day could be coming, right?

It’s 2010.

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