Inside the “Last Reading Standing” With Colson Whitehead

John Fredette Big

While last night's blizzard deterred most New Yorkers from leaving their apartments, the few, the proud, the literary braved the elements and descended upon Housing Works Book Cafe to hear authors Colson Whitehead, Heidi Julavits and Sam Lipsyte ruminate on relationships at Harper's Valentine's Day-themed reading, Love: A Rebuke.

Actually, the audience wasn't few, but many. Sipping PBR cans and Brooklyn Lager bottles, they packed the spacious rear of Housing Work's Crosby St. headquarters and even lined its walls and the twin curved staircases that lead to the space's balcony.

"A bunch of my friends' readings were cancelled tonight, so [this is the] last reading standing and people came out. I'm very glad," said Whitehead, undoubtedly the evening's main attraction.

The "John Henry Days" author didn't disappoint, garnering the most guffaws as he read a hilarious self-help letter from fictitious party guru Rick Davis to the aging, sexually-frustrated titular character of T.S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Julavits and Lipsyte carried on in darker but no less amusing veins, reading stories and book excerpts chock full of sex and heartache and all the areas in between.

As for Valentine’s Day itself, Whitehead had a cheekier, if not slightly cynical, standpoint: “It's just a day when you have to put out for people who you're going out with” he said with a laugh.

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