Vermin on the Mount

“Vermin on the Mount”
South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
October 4, 2014
Authors: Jami Attenberg, Jim Ruland, Antonia Crane, Lindsay Hunter, Adam Wilson, D. Foy

Brooklyn-based author Jami Attenberg has long hosted sunset author readings in her South Williamsburg apartment. And she's met many of those authors on the road while promoting her own work—highlighted by 2013 best-selling novel, The Middlesteins. Among them, Jim Ruland, whose "Vermin on the Mount" (VOTM) reading series recently paid a visit to Attenberg's place. The name derives from its origins a decade back at the now-closed Mountain Bar in Los Angeles's Chinatown. Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of a literary scene in Los Angeles—or at least, a disconnected provincial one—Ruland tells me he started VOTM as a way to bring together "novelists, bloggers, punk rockers, essayists, journalists, poets, people with a brown bag and something to say." The setting was an irreverent alternative to more staid reading environs of bookstores and auditoriums. Currently operating out of the Nomad Art Compound in Frogtown, VOTM also has a branch at 3rdspace in University Heights, San Diego—near the setting for Ruland's debut novel, Forest of Fortune. He read an excerpt from that piece, set at an Indian casino reminiscent of the one Ruland worked at for five years. 

The rest of the slate was split between two men and two women reciting a variety of genres—a mix that reflects Ruland's eclectic booking approach. "I just don't want it to be five white dudes reading out of their brand new novels. But I also don't want five slam poets." He adds that if he has a bias, it's toward journalists, bloggers, and anyone else with a true story to tell. "People pay closer attention when they know it's coming from a place of truth, especially if it's not something that's in a book." A textbook example was L.A. author Antonia Crane, who began her portion by dropping her memoir Spent to the floor in front of her, and reciting a passage about an unsatisfying sexual encounter while looking out over dozens of faces in the rapt attendance. Though Chicago author Lindsay Hunter read portions directly from the pages of two past works, her fast-paced rendition of "Let's" from her first book Daddy's spoke to performance skills honed as co-founder and co-host of flash fiction reading series, "Quickies!" Brooklyn author Adam Wilson noted this VOTM event was taking place on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and chose a portion that focused on the theme of atonement from his book What's Important Is Feeling, instead of a more-bitter (though, Yom Kippur-themed) passage from his novel Flatscreen. Re-evaluation was a theme in fellow Brooklyn author D. Foy's portion from his novel Made to Break, about a group of five longtime friends trapped by a storm in a mountain cabin, who play a game of truth-or-dare and take second looks at what binds them together. Books by the authors were available for sale by WORD bookstore, before attendees adjourned to Attenberg's rooftop for sunset drinks and a celebration of live-read literature. 

Christian Niedan
Nomadic Press
Niedan is a New York City-based writer and television producer. He is the creator and manager of a film website called Camera In The Sun, which looks at how people think of the places and cultures they see on screen.