“I’m interrogating a minor, and then I’ll be with you,” writer and amateur pugilist Jonathan Ames told the Transom at a benefit for the literary magazine Open City on Thursday, May 22. Young, pretty lady-intellectuals were wafting through several connecting rooms in N.Y.U.’s Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House in the Village, under the gaze of literary éminences grises captured in photographs on the walls. Mr. Ames, who’s known a few trannies in his time and was without his recent escort, singer Fiona Apple, finished talking to the poetess with the plunging neckline and then explained that when he forgets someone’s name at a party, he quotes the Michael Powell–Emeric Pressburger movie The Red Shoes: “Life rushes by—time rushes by, but the red shoes go on dancing forever.”
In the middle chamber, the very tall Open City editor Thomas Beller thanked guests and introduced the author Robert Stone, who read from his story “High Wire,” something about California, love, loss and getting older. The guests pressed forward in tightly compressed circles to listen; by the wall, a woman in a red jacket held her sleeping blond daughter in her arms under a black-and-white photo of Philip Roth in blue jeans, his hands in his pockets, thumbs pointing at his crotch. “In the sack,” read Mr. Stone, “she told me about her early life in Fresno.” Playwright and actor Wallace Shawn, looking dapper and accompanied by his longtime companion, the writer Deborah Eisenberg, appeared by the door, then quickly disappeared.