Local author Jessica Anya Blau recently gave a reading of her new novel, "Drinking Closer to Home," and thanks to Rosalia Scalia, we have this report:
Gusty winds did not deter a standing room only crowd from filing into the Minas Gallery for a session of the fourth season of the 5:10 fiction reading series. So many people arrived for the event, featuring Blau, Nik Korpon, Pat King, and Tara Laskowski, that hosts Michael Kimball and Jen Michalski felt compelled to announce available floor space, which filled quickly, but still left an astonishing number of people listening to the readers from the stairs.
Blau, whose first novel, "The Summer Of Naked Swim Parties," earned critical acclaim, opened the readings with highlights of her recently released "Drinking Closer To Home." The novel chronicles three siblings -- Portia, Anna and Emery — and their return home as adults after their mother has a heart attack. At this reading, Blau chose to focus on a handful of the novel’s sex scenes. Either drug-imbued or awkward losing-one’s-virginity teen sex scenes.
“I had a sex scene for each of the siblings except for the younger brother Emery. The editor called me and said I had to add sex scenes with him and this is the result,” she said with a laugh. Of course, while the scene about Emery contains all the innocence, freshness of teenage verve between a boy and girl, Blau uses it to humorously explore the age-old questions about both sex and life: How do I get in? and What next? The characters are so matter of fact about what they’re doing, so without passion, one gets the idea that something is missing or not quite right. Then after she reads the section, Blau says that Emery later realizes he is gay and experiences a second loss of virginity, his “gay loss of virginity.”
The novel explores the interactions between the three siblings, their parents and grandparents, “and all their dysfunctions,” Blau said, through the use of flashback and present action. The family — the Steins — also demonstrates that despite those dysfunctions, which may characterize many modern families, the underlying love they have for each other gives way to acceptance and forgiveness, and the power of their love, acceptance and forgiveness is carried through by Blau’s wicked sense of humor.
Texas native King and Maryland native Korpon — who co-host the Baltimore reading series Last Sunday, Last Rights in Mt. Vernon -- also read at this event. King read an excerpt of his autobiographical novel-in-progress, "Exit Nothing," which focused on his love for Philadelphia and his subsequent move to Baltimore despite the love for Philadelphia and finding a new life and purpose south of the Mason-Dixon line. When not working on his novel, King writes about movies and television for the pop culture Web site cincity2000.
Korpon read portions of his noir novel, "Stay God," which is set in Baltimore and chronicles the goings on at a second-hand store called Stay Gold. Through this novel, Korpon sheds light on Baltimore’s long dark underbelly, his characters definitely living the kind of life seemingly foreign to many Baltimoreans. Or is it?
Laskowski, the 2009 Kathy Fish Fellow and writer-in-residence and now senior editor at SmokeLong Quarterly, braved a brush-fire spurred traffic clog on Interstate 95, driving up from Northern Virginia to read at the 5:10s. Laskowski read about four short pieces, the final one uplifting, finely crafted with beautiful lyricism, ending the event with a hopeful high note.
After the readings, many present headed down for the traditional post-5:10 writers/readers gathering at Fraziers.
More info on the 5:10 readings.