Thursday, May 22, 2008

JUNE 2008: Workshop; Man Who Would Be King; Outsider Art Exhibition; Raiders; Austen Afternoon; Jim/Karen Shepard; Pulp Art Doc Screening; PAPA

Click to enlarge. All events start at 8 PM unless otherwise noted. For more info, scroll down.

7:00 - 9:30 PM, Mon. & Weds., June 2 - 11
Register Now! Sessions fill quickly.

In The Spooky Art, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Norman Mailer talked about crisp words "clamping down…sticking." In an interview shortly before his death, Noir author Raymond Chandler spoke of perfectly pitched sentences "walking off the page." Despite using opposing metaphors, they are obviously describing the same thing. Good writing. A key focus of the class is this acoustical quality. The profound difference between how a sentence sounds and its mute presence on the page. Accordingly, a significant amount of time is dedicated to declaiming work. Students are not, however, permitted to read their own work, rather their work is "vocally published" by the instructor. The writer then becomes a critical part of the evaluating audience for his own piece, often noticing the same literary stumbles (and moments of grace) as his peers. Students should come prepared to revise/resolve a prior project or to draft a pre-existing idea. The workshop does not, for the most part, assign exercises, but rather use the students' own projects to instruct.

The cost of the workshop is $100.00 payable at the beginning of the first class. Complimentary wine is served. For further information or to register, e-mail The Raconteur at

8 PM, Thurs. June 5
Film Screening

Before Raiders of the Lost Ark, there was The Man Who Would Be King. Adapted from the Rudyard Kipling story of the same title, King was directed by John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) and starred Sean Connery, Michael Caine (who maintained that if any film of his is remembered after his death, it would this one) and Christopher Plummer as Kipling. It tells the tale of two rogue British soldiers/freemasons who set off from 19th century British India in search of adventure, and end up as kings of Kafiristan. Shot on location in Morocco, Huston had planned to make the film since the 1950's: originally with Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, then Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, and then Robert Redford and Paul Newman — Newman suggested Connery and Caine. It's a rollicking tale, an epic satire of imperialism, and the good-natured repartee shared by Caine and Connery is pure gold. FREE! Comp Wine.
8 PM, Fri. June 6
Group Exhibition

Fifty plus pieces by tattooists, street photogs, and graffiti artists -- all members of the maverick cultural organization: Robots Will Kill. FREE! Comp wine. Art on sale at event.
2 PM - 5:30 PM, Sun. June 8

Special Event
Beginning at 2 PM, The Brass Lantern (327 Main Street) will display modern and collectible works of needlepoint while a food historian/tea specialist speaks about edibles and drinkables during Austen's era. The Raconteur's Jane Hardy and Laurence Mintz will present a theatrical reading from Austen's Pride and Prejudice at 3:30 PM in the Westerhoff School's new theater (5 Calvin Place). The event will conclude at the School with tea and a classical concert at 4 PM.

Jane Hardy is a former Off Broadway actress. Raconteur patrons my remember her from her riveting performance as a panicky invalid in the staged radio play Sorry Wrong Number, her stunning portrayal of the dynamic titular character in Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, or, most recently, her poignant reading of the epistolary romance, 84 Charing Cross Road (with Laurence Mintz). In July (date TBA) she'll perform Joan Didion's one woman show The Year of Magical Thinking at The Raconteur.

Laurence Mintz is a painter, actor and scholar. Raconteur performances include the Russian Colonel Zaroff in The Most Dangerous Game and Briton bookseller Frank Doel (to Jane Hardy's Helene Danff) in 84 Charing Cross Road. He also played multiple characters (Major Calloway, Baron Kurtz, Dr. Winkel) with a range of accents in The Raconteur's recent production of Graham Greene's The Third Man.

8 PM, Thurs. June 12
Film Screening

Released exactly 27 years ago today, on June 12, 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first film I can remember seeing more than once. I was eleven and lived on a horse ranch in southeastern Alabama. The Peachtree movie theater was almost an hour away in Columbus, Georgia. To see a movie multiple times meant multiple two hour round-trips across the state border. Not an easy thing to accomplish when you're in seventh grade. Fortunately, my family loved the film as much as I did, all of us watching wide-eyed and thunderstruck as the Ark heaved its sinister contents into the furious Cairo sky, again and again. An homage to the glory days of Saturday matinee adventure serials and back-lot B-movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most unabashedly enjoyable cinematic events of the 1980s. Packed with breakneck action and a cheerfully absurd plot, Raiders celebrated old-school adventure, making it palatable to an increasingly jaded contemporary audience and turning otherwise stodgy film critics into gleeful children. FREE! Comp Wine!
8 PM, Fri. June 13
JIM & KAREN SHEPARD (w/special guest Clay Mcleod Chapman)

Stories about dissolving marriages are fine, but how about two gay engineers on the Hindenberg? Or a 19th century man searching for a giant half-shark/half-whale? A recent finalist for the National Book Award, Like You’d Understand, Anyway reaches from Chernobyl to Bridgeport, with a host of narrators only Shepard could bring to pitch-perfect life. Among them: a middle-aged Aeschylus taking his place at Marathon, still vying for parental approval; a maddeningly indefatigable Victorian explorer hauling his expedition, whaleboat and all, through the Great Australian Desert in midsummer; the first woman in space and her cosmonaut lover, caught in the star-crossed orbits of their joint mission; and the rational and compassionate chief executioner of Paris, whose occupation, during the height of the Terror, eats away at all he holds dear. Brimming with irony, compassion, and withering humor, these eleven stories are at once eerily pertinent and dazzlingly exotic, and they showcase the work of a protean, prodigiously gifted writer at the height of his form. “These are uniformly bold and exhilarating stories. Let's hope Shepard becomes as influential as he should be. He's the best we've got." —Dave Eggers. "With a near spooky sense of empathy and a wit that finds its mark like lightning, Shepard’s stories transport readers light-years beyond what they think they know of the world." —Vanity Fair

PLUS Karen Shepard's masterful third book, Don't I Know You?, opens in 1976 on Manhattan's Upper West Side as 12-year-old Steven Engel comes home to find his mom, Gina, stabbed to death. Karen Shepard is the author of the novels An Empire of Women and The Bad Boy's Wife. Her work has appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Bomb, and other publications.

With special guest: acclaimed performer/author Clay McLeod Chapman. Chapman has been called “hauntingly poetic” by Time Out New York and compared to William Faulkner by The Village Voice. The Scotsman, Scotland’s leading newspaper, called him “Stephen King transformed into a punk, preacher poet.”

FREE! Comp Wine. Books on sale at event.

8 PM, FRI. JUNE 20
Film Screening/Discussion
Hosted by NYC documentarian JAMIE MACDONALD
With Special Guest: Pulp Art Historian ROBERT LESSER

Hard-boiled dicks, lantern jawed thugs, dames in distress, jungle warlords, and evil oriental masterminds. Pulp magazines, frequently sadistic, occasionally rascist, and always misogynistic, reigned for about a quarter of a century as the most popular entertainment medium in America. They were cheaply produced and cheap to buy, generally a dime. And they were plentiful. After a low-key beginning, the format took off and the initially tame art became more garish, promising endless excitement and ever greater thrills. Western covers went from an illustration of a serene Indian gently paddling his canoe to ferocious savages tomahawking a defenseless frontier family. Mystery covers went from cops on the beat to hoodlums ripping blouses off buxom young blondes.

Pulp writers knew how to write compelling stories and, indeed, many of the best went on to extremely successful and more respectable careers (Dashell Hammett, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Raymond Chandler, Isaac Asimov, and Tennessee Williams). But with the exception of N. C. Wyeth, the pulp painters (J. Allen St. John, Margaret Brundage, Rafael de Soto) rarely left their lurid beginnings.

This documentary takes a look at the macabre magazine covers that even the artists who painted them sadly seemed to disown. Winner of the 2006 Best Documentary award at both the Dragon*Con Film Festival and The International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival, documentary filmmaker Jamie McDonald gained exclusive access to the world s largest pulp art collection - owned by pulp art historian Robert Lesser. Whether you are a true fan of the form or a curious newcomer, Cheap Thrills & Painted Nightmares will leave you thinking differently about what constitutes true art. Filmmaker MacDonald and historian Lesser will introduce the film and answer questions following the screening. FREE!

7 - 9 PM, Thurs. June 26
Hosted by Rachelle Adlerman

Music, poetry & short prose. Parties interested in participating should arrive no later than 6:45 and sign in with Rachelle.

8 PM, Fri. & Sat. June 27 & 28
Two Nights!!
Staged Reading
Featuring Jeff Maschi

If Papa, John deGroot's unsparing dramatic portrait of Ernest Hemingway in his later years, has any degree of accuracy, the macho titan of 20th-century American fiction was one mean drunk. He was also a bully, a misogynist and a liar, obsessed with manliness and devoured by envy. Halfway into Papa, the character works himself into a competitive frenzy, grabs one of several hunting guns from the wall, and shoots, imagining William Faulkner as a game bird.Set in Hemingway's trophy-decorated home outside Havana in 1959, five years after he won the Nobel Prize in Literature and two years before his suicide by shotgun in Ketchum, Idaho, Papa coheres as the story of a man in pain. Without going into medical details, the play conveys the debilitating physical toll of all those macho exploits: the war wounds, plane crashes and car wrecks that facilitated his dependence on alcohol, his favorite general anesthetic. As the author desperately shadowboxes with literary ghosts and fires his gun (figuratively and literally) into the air, you feel the agony of a man whose body and soul are irreparably racked. (blurb excerpted from Stephen Holden's New York Times review of the 1996 Broadway production). FREE! Comp Wine.

ON DECK FOR JULY: Ray Tintori/Death of a Tinman (Film Screening); April Smith & The Great American Show (Live Music); The League of Gentleman (Radio Play); Marvin Schwartz & Helen Stummer (Photography Exhibition); Reign of Fire (Film Screening)

Monday, May 12, 2008

MAY 2008: Rac Fest; Michael Hastings

2 PM, Sat. May 10
Acclaimed Authors/Live Music/Sideshow Performers

What do a sword swallower, a young female folk singer from Seville, Spain, and an author whose latest novel, Skin, is slowly being written on the bodies of ten thousand volunteers (each who've agreed to have a single word tattooed on their body), all have in common? RAC FEST!

The Raconteur Festival is a semiannual hootenanny/cultural clambake featuring acclaimed authors, live music, sideshow performers and an independent press book expo. Performers include Charles Bock, John Crowley, Gabriel Brownstein, Shelley Jackson, The Dan Whitley Band, The Roadside Graves, Samantha Hunt, Clay McLeod Chapman, Alex Dawson, Sandra Rubio, Arlan Feiles, James Braly, Jeremy Benson, and The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. 2 pm, Sat. May 10 (Doors open at 1:30 pm). The Refectory, 270 Woodbridge Avenue (one block from the train station, adjacent to the First Presbyterian Church), Metuchen, NJ. Fest Tickets: $15. Book Expo Free! to public. For advance tickets call 732-906-0009 or visit The Raconteur at 431 Main Street. Tickets available at The Refectory day of event ONLY. While clams covered in seaweed and steamed on hot rocks is typical of clambakes, The Raconteur is anything but typical i.e. no clams. For more info/participant bios visit and click on "Rac Fest."

8 PM, Weds. May 14

At age twenty-five, Michael Hastings arrived in Baghdad to cover the war in Iraq for Newsweek. He had at his disposal a little Hemingway romanticism and all the apparatus of a twenty-first-century reporter -- cell phones, high-speed Internet access, digital video cameras, fixers, drivers, guards, translators. Back in New York, Hastings had fallen in love with Andi Parhamovich, a young idealist who worked for Air America. A year into their courtship, Andi followed Michael to Iraq, taking a job with the National Democratic Institute. In many ways their romance is typical: they call each other pet names, they exchange frequent IMs and text messages, they make plans for the future. But in many ways it is not: they frequently fight about the risks each of them must separately take, all the while trying to figure out how to physically connect, when each visit puts bodyguards and drivers in jeopardy.

Then Andi goes on a dangerous mission for her new employer: a meeting at the Iraqi Islamic Party headquarters that ends in catastrophe.

Searing, unflinching, and revelatory, I Lost My Love in Baghdad is both a raw, brave, brilliantly observed account of the war and a heartbreaking story of one life lost to it. FREE! Comp wine. Books on sale at event.