A cool reading in the hot basement at Mac’s Backs last night, with fiction writers Kelly Link, Dan Chaon, and Maureen McHugh. Link is the editor of the literary magazine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, put out by Small Beer Press, which, along with Link’s book of short stories, MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS, published Maureen McHugh’s new book of short stories, MOTHERS AND OTHER MONSTERS. Dan Chaon teaches at Oberlin and lives right here in Cleveland Heights–his most recent book is the novel, YOU REMIND ME OF ME. I heard one of the audience members say, “Oh, God, it’s like the royalty of Cleveland writing here tonight…”
After the reading, I was browsing the stacks, and Chaon pointed at me.
CHAON: You’re the Zagara’s guy.
ME: Uh, yeah, hi!
CHAON: It’s Austin, right? You’re a cartoonist?
And I’m thinking, how the hell does Dan Chaon know my name and that I draw cartoons? Turns out, someone pointed out this here blog, and one of the posts to him. (So, hi Dan, if you’re reading.) We talked about Zagaras being the true center of Cleveland literary activity, and I sheepishly tried to convince him that I was REALLY a short story writer, and he introduced me to one of his students who was doing a graphic novel in his workshop, which I thought was great: I wish I’d have done some comics in undergrad workshop.
McHugh is currently writing for the gaming industry. “Art is a product of technology,” she said. “The novel only became an art form after the printing press made it cheap to make a book…we’re still figuring out the computer.” She read four stories she’s written for the website lastcallpoker.com, aimed at the site’s target demographic of males 18-34. The first story was about a lesbian ninja named spider. “That’s A Funny Place For A Canoe,” was about a serial killer who shoots a hispanic drug dealer in the head on a street corner. For the third story, McHugh “had to become Elmore Leonard.” “Grind Up Your Bones For Bread” was about a computer hacker named Matt whose plot resembled the life story of William Bonny (aka Billy the Kidd). McHugh had cool postcards with her story “Wicked” printed on the front–I’ve always wondered why more authors don’t do promotional postcards/samples, like visual artists. She ended by holding up her new book and saying, “And if you think the stories in here are going to be anything like what I just read, you’re in for a big surprise!”
And so, there you have it: best reading since McSweeney’s hit Joseph-Beth a couple months ago. Next week: Charles Baxter at Lakewood Public Library.