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Largehearted Lit: John Sellers, Jenna Torres and Greg Olear

Whoa. This reading introduced me to a religion I hadn’t known existed!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start by saying that  the blog Largehearted Boy is genius. Combining his love of music and literature, blogger David Gutowski provides a ton of regular features that blend the two. In Book Notes, authors create mix tapes based on their last books (and man, he has everyone, from Lev Grossman to Aimee Bender). In Note Books, he speaks with musicians about their literary inclinations. In his Cross-Cultural Media Exchange Program, he asks writers to interview musicians and vice versa. I could go on.

David also hosts the monthly Largehearted Lit series in Brooklyn, which features readings and music that focus on a theme. This past Tuesday at Word the theme was fatherhood (aw, how largehearted is that?).

The first reader was John Sellers, author of the memoir The Old Man and the Swamp. John wrote of his summer as a 15-year-old catching snakes with his father—a freelance herpetologist (“which meant he was an often unemployed guy who liked snakes,” John added). His father was quite the character—a guy who initially wanted to become a Lutheran priest, whose Christmas gifts to his children could consist solely of a king-sized candy bar, and who once stopped his car in the middle of the road to chase a snake into the forest. (Upon his triumphant return, he held the snake aloft and boomed that famous Jesus Christ Superstar refrain: He is DANGEROUS).

In order to write the book, John went back into his “personal archives,” which included journals and lists of his fave music music. He read a part of his hyper-specific list “Top 50 song picks from August 1, 1986,” then offered a book to someone who could call randomly call out the number of the best song (Adam Ant won over Hall & Oates).

Singer-songwriter Jenna Torres then took the stage to play a few tunes, claiming: “The songs are not about fathers, but quite a few of them are about men.” Before she played, though, she told a story from childhood about finding a book when it literally fell onto her head in a bookstore. The aggressive book turned out to be The Voice of Venus. Curious, as I used to read a lot of sci-fi growing up, I had to google it. And I was so very glad I did. First, because it helped me to stumble upon the most incredible Amazon’s “About the Author” page of all time. It begins:

Ernest L. Norman made his debut into this planet Earth in 1904, in a small town in northern Utah. It was apparent right from the first that he was an unusual child. His mother nearly died in the process of his introduction because of his abnormally large head. It is said he had the body of an eight-pound child but weighed over twelve pounds!

Another amazing sample sentence: It was also during this early period of life that he constructed a rabbit hutch which was vastly superior in design and workmanship to one constructed by an adult neighbor more than six times his age.

Awesome, right? I thought it was joke, but a few clicks later found that ol’ Ernie and his wife Ruth founded the Unarius Academy of Science in 1954. The academy still exists today, centered in California, where it provides everything from lectures to greeting cards (entitled with such names as: The Star Center). Alright, maybe it’s not quite as widespread/disturbing as Scientology. But still. Just goes to show the random things you can pick up from readings.

Alright, back to fatherhood.  Greg Olear, author of the novel Fathermucker, was the last to read. Recovering from strep, a disease he called appropriately childlike, Greg sadly announced there would be “no open-mouthed kissing” that evening. He launched into the first few pages of his book, in which a dad, in between struggling to tame his precocious toddler, first lusts after the hot mommy of the group, then finds out from her that his wife may be having an affair. Full of the hilarious and maddening moments I imagine parenthood must contain, the book has lots of great lines, which were delivered with deadpan perfection by Greg: “When your child wants to end the play date, you end the fucking play date.”

Heads up: the next (and last for the year) Largehearted Lit will take place on November 9.

Heads up 2: I’m heading off to New Orleans, so I probs won’t be able to put a listing  next week. However, the day after I get back I’ll be seeing Margaret Atwood at the Center for Fiction, so be sure to stay tuned for that writeup. Margaret Atwood!!!! If you can’t tell, I’m pretty damn psyched.