Bookforum Reading Brings Wasted Youth to the New Museum

An attendee. (Photo by Rozalia Jovanovic)

Adam Wilson, one of five readers at Bookforum‘s Wasted Youth event at the New Museum last night, is one of the only writers ever to get a porn star to do his book trailer, for Flatscreen, his new novel.

“A lot of people are not liking the video,” said Michael Signorelli, Mr. Wilson’s editor at Harper Perennial, about the book trailer. “I assume it’s because they see Stoya. You know, she’s an international porn star. But she doesn’t have sex on the video.”

All the night’s readers—Kerry Howley, Ben Marcus, Rhonda Lieberman and Dale Peck—gave their various interpretations of the subject, Wasted Youth, which was paired with the title and theme of the just-opened triennial show at the New Museum, “The Ungovernables.”

“The staff spends a lot of time thinking about failed romance and drug use,” said Bookforum editor Michael Miller (no relation to our colleague Michael H. Miller), introducing the readers. He stood at the clear Plexiglas podium as rain pattered against the windows. The last two Bookforum readings were called Love Stinks and Bad Trips.

The readings for the most part stuck to the theme: Mr. Wilson read from his novel about a young drug-user who befriends a former TV-sensation; Ms. Lieberman read a piece about a young woman who is “delivered from grad school purgatory” when she lands a job as a teacher at the prestigious School of the Art Toilet; Mr. Marcus read from his novel, The Flame Alphabet, in which children’s speech is toxic; Ms. Howley read from her piece about a young woman who flees to a military dictatorship out of boredom; and Mr. Peck read about a young man who suffers from a birthmark that extends from his face to his buttocks and used “props” for the first time—placards that had words and phrases written on them, like “mascular” and “D*CK.”

“Have you ever heard of 12 Caesars by Suetonius?” Mr. Peck asked Gallerist after his reading. “He was a second-century Roman historian who wrote this book about the first twelve Caesars. He basically wrote the first Kitty Kelly biography, you know, so-and-so was fucking so-and-so. Nero was having sex with his sister and his mom.” His next book is loosely based on it.

On the elevator leaving the event, Knight Landesman, publisher of Artforum and a recognizable fixture at parties for his loud, colorful suits (tonight it was a red jacket and red pants), pointed to a poster for the triennial exhibition. “It doesn’t seem wild,” he said, as if disappointed in today’s youth. “Or ungovernable.” From his pocket he pulled out—what else?—a red headband, and put it on so that it covered his ears.

Bookforum Reading Brings Wasted Youth to the New Museum