The new york city Launches of Music & Literature No. 4:
BookCourt / 30 May 2014
McNally Jackson Bookstore / 1 June 2014
In the two years since its inception, Music & Literature has gained an impressive following—one that outpaces the increasing thicknesses of its authoritatively and lovingly curated volumes. In keeping, its events have gained in ambition: this summer, the release of M&L no. 4—which explores the work of Clarice Lispector, Maya Homburger, Barry Guy, and Mary Ruefle—was celebrated, fittingly, with four launch events, two of which were held in a couple of my favorite bookshops, BookCourt in Brooklyn and McNally Jackson in the Village.
On a warm day in Brooklyn, dozens of readers came together in the skylit BookCourt to celebrate the dual launch of M&L no. 4 and the latest in Sylph Editions’ The Cahiers Series, Clarice: The Visitor by Idra Novey. After brief opening remarks and an incantatory reading from an essay by Stig Sæterbakken, violinist Filip Pogády took the stage and performed "Lysandra," a piece of astonishing virtuosity written by composer Barry Guy for his wife, Maya Homburger, and the room sank into captivity.
The festivities—and our attention—then shifted to Clarice Lispector as Daniel Medin recited the final words of her final novel, The Hour of the Star, before Stefan Tobler shared his infectious enthusiasm for Agua Viva, which he translated for New Directions. With a slideshow featuring the artwork of Erica Baum (whose assemblages feature in the Cahier) projected behind her, Idra Novey then gave a reading from several sections from her Cahier, bringing a new angle on Lispector to the proceedings and a new dimension to the event. When Filip Pogády again assumed center stage to perform Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D Minor, everyone fell into a trance. The final act of the evening, a sequence of poems by Mary Ruefle read by Rachel Hurn, had an astringent and cleansing effect on the audience. The event was a potent reminder that all artistic mediums can be arresting intellectually and emotionally; the result is a sort of languid joy that is impossible not to share.
What a pleasure it was, then, to join another group of presenters for the second event at McNally Jackson Bookstore that Sunday evening. Filip Pogády once again bewitched a packed house, while novelists Katie Kitamura and Sarah Gerard held an on-point and impromptu discussion, moderated by Daniel Medin, on Clarice Lispector and her unshakable influence on contemporary writers. Mieke Chew's recitations of a set of Mary Ruefle's poems were, by turns, poignant and very funny.
There are few authors who attract such an ardent following as Clarice Lispector does—and it was a joy to realize that just as many people had come for the music of Maya Homburger and Barry Guy, and the poetry of Mary Ruefle. The magic of Music & Literature is in its ability to bring together a great cross-section of readers for events such as those that occurred in a single weekend this summer in New York City. —Jeffrey Zuckerman