This is not your bubby’s Jewish Museum. On November 20, the latest edition of the Upper East Side institution’s “The Wind Up” features Mykki Blanco, the cross-gender rapper, poet, and performance artist also known as Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. As Quattlebaum, he has written From the Silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Boys, a compilation of twenty-three poems including “The Intimacy of Being,” “Freak Jerk,” “Black Boys Are Flowers Too,” and “I Am Young Please Forgive Me,” several of which have been turned into songs by her band, Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels, which has released such albums as Betty Rubble: The Initiation and the three-track EP Spring/Summer 2014. In “Poem I” he writes, “I am not a man of reason / And that is exact / I am precisely not a man of logic / And that is inarguable / At some point my soul left me / It was all very casual, you know, in / that way things can sometimes be / It grew tired of my body, I suppose.” Blanco will appear in Scheuer Auditorium along with DJ P. Morris in conjunction with the Abstract Expressionist exhibition “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945–1952”; the evening will also include spin art T-shirt making, a painting station, a beer and wine bar, and exhibition tours.
SVA Theatre, AMC Loews 19th St., Carlton Hotel, Joe’s Pub
November 18-23, $15-$125
The eleventh edition of the South Asian International Film Festival, which was founded by Shilen Amin to present works from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal and from within the Indian Diaspora, takes place November 18-23, consisting of eight feature films, four shorts, after-parties, receptions, and live music. The opening-night selection, X., is one of several festival films dealing with the art of the movies themselves, made by eleven Indian directors sharing in telling the story of a filmmaker by exploring his sexual past. In Karthik Subbaraj’s Jigarthanda (Cold Heart), a young director tries to make a reality gangster flick (Subbaraj will participate in a Q&A following the November 21 world premiere screening at the SVA Theatre), while a Bollywood writer heads to Hollywood in the centerpiece world premiere of Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.’s Happy Ending. Other films include Shrihari Sathe’s Ek Hazarachi Note, Kanu Behl’s Titli, and Nabeel Qureshi’s closing-night, Karachi-set Na Maloom Afraad, which will also be followed by a Q&A. Wednesday night’s after-party at Joe’s Pub will be highlighted by a live performance by Raveena Aurora, while filmgoers are invited to mingle with the filmmakers at the closing-night cocktail reception on Sunday.
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince St. between Lafayette & Mulberry Sts.
Sunday, November 9, free, 1:00
“How does one begin a book?” Bob Odenkirk asks at the start of his new tome, A Load of Hooey (McSweeney’s, October 2014, $20), which is part of the Odenkirk Memorial Library. “A letter, a word, soon a sentence, then another, and suddenly, a paragraph is begotten — a two-sentence paragraph. Dickens, Melville, Odenkirk, all have faced the same question, and only one has failed. Melville. ‘Call me Ishmael.’ Talk about giving up.” The Illinois-born, Emmy-winning, very-much-alive Odenkirk, who partnered with David Cross on the TV cult classic Mr. Show and played legal eagle Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad — a role he is reprising in the upcoming spinoff Better Call Saul — will be at McNally Jackson on November 9 at 1:00, reading from and signing copies of Hooey, which includes such “new short humor fiction” as “One Should Never Read a Book on the Toilet,” “My Education, or, the Education of a Me, or, I Not Dumb,” “Hitler Dinner Party: A Play,” and “Martin Luther King Jr.’s Worst Speech Ever.” Later on, Odenkirk will be heading over to the Gramercy Theatre for a book release show that is part of the New York Comedy Festival; tickets for the 7:00 performance are $40 and include a copy of the book, the cover of which boasts, “Inside is funny things.”
Started in Capri in 2006 by founding artistic director Antonio Monda and Davide Azzolini, Italy’s Le Conversazioni literary festival returns to the Morgan Library on November 6 with a program examining the relationship between film and literature. Critic, director, journalist, producer, writer, and NYU professor Monda will moderate a discussion with a pair of British novelists, Patrick McGrath, author of such books as The Grotesque, Spider, Asylum, and Constance, and Zadie Smith, who has written such books as White Teeth, The Autograph Man, and The Embassy of Cambodia. They will focus on the influence specific films have had on their life and career. Previous Le Conversazioni presentations at the Morgan have brought together Julie Taymor and Jeffrey Eugenides, Isabella Rossellini and Salman Rushdie, Marina Abramovic and Daniel Libeskind, Martin Amis and Isa Buruma, and Jonathan Franzen and Paul Schrader.
One of the greatest living novelists in the world, Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s intoxicating prose flows like music. A jazz aficionado, he even named one of his earliest books Norwegian Wood, after the Beatles song, while the massive IQ84 is like an opera itself. The title of his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Knopf, August 2014, $26.95), is in part inspired by Franz Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage suite. As Haida and Tsukuru listen to Liszt’s “Le mal du pays,” Tsukuru asks, “Who’s the pianist here?” to which Haida responds, “ A Russian, Lazar Berman. When he plays Liszt it’s like he’s painting a delicately imagined landscape. Most people see Liszt’s piano music as more superficial, and technical. Of course, he has some tricky pieces, but if you listen very carefully to his music you discover a depth to it that you don’t notice at first.” The same can be said for Murakami’s books; many of his protagonists give mini-dissertations on music, and while The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore are more difficult narratives, the deceptive simplicity of Norwegian Wood and After Dark contains layers of complexities. On November 1 at 8:00, New York City-based pianist Eunbi Kim will bring “Murakami Music: Stories of Loss and Nostalgia” to the Baruch Performing Arts Center, a multidisciplinary evening of music based on Murakami’s writings, along with excerpts from his work performed by actress Laura Yumi Snell. Part of Kim’s Murakami Music Project, the sixty-minute show, presented by the Long Island City art gallery Resobox, is directed by Kira Simring and includes performances of Schumann’s Forest Scenes, Op. 82; “Norwegian Wood”; Chopin’s Etude, Op. 25, No. 1; Mozart’s Sonata in B flat Major, K. 333; Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in d minor, Op. 14; Nat King Cole’s “South of the Border” and “Pretend”; Grieg’s Norwegian Dance, Op. 35; and Kim’s own “Kafka on the Shore.” Kim will be joined by David Kjar on saxophone and Jeff Koch on upright bass. Meanwhile, Murakami fans are in for an extra treat this year, as his next album — er, book — the illustrated short story The Strange Library, is due from Knopf on December 2, featuring another marvelous album cover — er, book design — by Chip Kidd.
In Burnt Tongues: An Anthology of Transgressive Stories, which he edited with Richard Thomas and Dennis Widmyer, Chuck Palahniuk writes in his introduction, titled “The Power of Persisting,” “The worst thing you could do is read this book and instantly enjoy every word. This book, the book you’re holding, I hope you gag on a few words — more than a few. May some of the stories scar and trouble you. Whether you like or dislike them doesn’t matter; you’ve already touched these words with your eyes, and they’re becoming part of you. Even if you hate these stories, you’ll come back to them because they’ll test you and prompt you to become someone larger, braver, bolder.” Palahniuk could have just as well been referring to his own novels, intense tales that can provoke scarring and trouble, delighting and offending fans, often simultaneously. In works such as Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey, Haunted, Invisible Monsters, and Fight Club, Palahniuk dares readers to keep turning pages even as the plots and characters he depicts go places no book has ever gone before. Palahniuk’s public events also go places no author has gone before, as he is known for throwing fake body parts into a costumed audience, as he did at New York Comic Con a few years back. (Chuck actually retweeted our posting of photos from that NYCC event, a seminal moment in our existence on Earth.) On Halloween, Palahniuk will be celebrating the release of his latest novel, Beautiful You (Doubleday, October 2014, $25.95), with a gathering at the powerHouse Arena in DUMBO, where it is demanded that fans come dressed in pajamas, referencing the new book, significant portions of which take place in the bedroom, “where a billion husbands are about to be replaced.” Palahniuk will also have an opening act, Fred Venturini, whose story “Gasoline” is featured in Burnt Tongues. Writing about last week’s San Francisco stop on the Better than Sex Tour, Burnt Tongues contributor Brandon Tietz explained, “There’s a proven formula for a Chuck Palahniuk reading, and he broke it down for me step-by-step: intro, candy toss, story reading, glowing beach ball rave, etc.,” in addition to a Q&A and a severed-arm giveaway. “Best. Reading. Ever,” he concluded. Tickets for the powerHouse extravaganza are $30 and include a presigned copy of Beautiful You. We can’t wait.
407 West 43rd St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through January 25, $79
“Words are my life,” Joely Richardson declares as Emily Dickinson in the new revival of William Luce’s The Belle of Amherst that opened October 20 at the Westside Theatre. “I look at words as if they were entities, sacred beings.” In the one-woman show, Richardson (Nip/Tuck, Lady Chatterley’s Lover) stars as poet Emily Dickinson, a spinster-recluse who is sharing her life story with the audience. Now fifty-three, Dickinson, wearing a long white dress (designed by William Ivey Long), her auburn hair pulled back tight, whimsically discusses the importance of family (her sister Lavinia, known as Vinnie; her brother, Austin; her parents; and her aunt Libby), social graces, fame, solitude, nature, art, and romance, her monologue smoothly folding in her poetry along the way. Walking through Antje Ellermann’s bright, charming late-nineteenth-century drawing-room set, Dickinson is also bright and charming, though clearly a bit off-center, enthusiastically explaining that she is in full control of herself, even if the denizens of Amherst think she is crazy. “Oh, I do have fun with them. My menagerie,” she says. “I guess people in small towns must have their local characters. And for Amherst, that’s what I am. But do you know something? I enjoy the game. I’ve never said this to anyone before, but I’ll tell you. I do it on purpose. The white dress, the seclusion. It’s all deliberate.”
Over the course of one hundred minutes and two acts, Dickinson recites her poetry, very little of which was published during her lifetime, and reenacts short vignettes from her life, including attending a dance as a teenager, going to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, receiving a gentleman caller, and seeing the Northern Lights, all while awaiting the arrival of her literary mentor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson. She excitedly digs through her treasure chest of poems, an ever-growing celebration of the written word that she is intensely proud of. Bravely fighting the sniffles and a few troubled line readings the night we went, Richardson is delightful as Dickinson, playing her with a wide-eyed sense of wonder and an inner freedom that often conflicts with the general perception of who Dickinson was. “In a way, the stories are true,” Dickinson says. “Oh, I believe in truth. But I think it can be slanted just a little.” And so it is with Luce’s (Lillian, Barrymore) extensively researched, skillful, though at times treacly, script. Richardson — the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson, granddaughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, and sister of the late Natasha Richardson — and director Steve Cosson (The Great Immensity; Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play) ably differentiate between the past and the present, as Richardson takes on a role that was made famous by Julie Harris, who won a Tony and a Grammy for her original 1976 performance. But Richardson stands tall, fully making it her own.