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The Nonstop Carnival Of Hot Pink, And A Very Chicago-Style Reading

By Maggie Hellwig in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 16, 2012 6:40PM

Image Via Publisher's Website

On Wednesday night, Quimby's Bookstore was more crowded than expected. A group of twenty-somethings all were shuffled in together: seated in chairs, on the floor, or shifting positions awkwardly in the back—all to hear Chicago authors Tim Kinsella and Adam Levin read.

"I get really nervous at readings," Tim Kinsella began, holding several pages of fresh material in his palm. After the young author of The Karaoke Singer's Guide To Self Defense admitted to us that he had shot some whiskey and popped a muscle relaxant to calm his nerves, he began to read us what can only be described as short vignettes of connected prose. His new work is honest, "not funny," as he pointed out, but brutally poignant. Despite his admitted nervousness, Kinsella's story served as a calming source for him. By the time he had finished, the audience was dead silent--impressed and moved under his hypnotism.

When Levin reached the platform, seemingly at ease with the crowd, he was holding a copy of his new book, Hot Pink, in his hand. Hot Pink was released this month with heavy expectations after Levin's brilliant previous novel The Instructions. One thing this book does not do in its ten short stories, is disappoint. Levin's writing is jarring, abrasive, at times grotesque, but always completed with such finesse that it is impossible to put down. His shorter pieces, such as "The Extra Mile," or, "RSVP," are often brief, jovial, glimpses into very complicated relationships. We enter the story mid-breath, and catch up within a matter of seconds. When Levin's prose isn't straight forward, it is experimental as it is in "How to Play the Guy," which reads like an instruction manual on how to emulate teenage stereotypes.

At the event, Adam told us that he was tired of reading the shorter stories, and opened the page to a longer one: "Finch." Earlier in the month, Levin told the Chicago Sun-Times that "Finch," was the story that got him into graduate school at Syracuse. It's a familiar one for him, and without a doubt has been reworked hundreds of times since then. The adolescent protagonist, Clifford, has begun to hang out with Franco, a sixteen-year-old "tough guy." The two strike up a rapport and spend a great deal of time huffing butane in Franco's garage. Aside from their bizarre friendship, the story is about Clifford: his obsession with being overweight, his crush on Jenny Wansie, and his relationship with his parents.

What Levin proved from reading a comedic exchange between Clifford and his parents at the dinner table, is that this author's stories are probably funniest and most enjoyable when read out loud. All of the stories in Hot Pink are set in Chicago, and the author (Chicago-raised) is as familiar with the neighborhoods and streets as it gets. He has a knack for syntax, accents, and facial expressions of the animated characters that roam our city streets. And it was in the performance of his writing that we were reminded of Chicago's diversity that converges in a unique accord.

Whether the reader picks up Hot Pink in the pages describing the disabled legs but astute mind of "Susan Falls," a phallic crack in a man's wall that oozes gel in "Scientific American," or the struggles of a boy supporting his father's insane creation (a doll that is supposed to model appropriate body image for young girls) in "Frankenwittgenstien," there are oddities abound which are best read narrated with a drink in one hand and a cigarette, or merely a fistful of conviction, in the other.

The reading concluded with no question and answer, but a simple statement from Levin: "And now we're gonna go sign some books and then drink at the Rainbo." And with that, the round-up of twenty-somethings clapped and went about their very Chicagoan lives.