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Every Reading Series Deserves a Happy Ending
Amanda Stern moves her show to Joe’s Pub

by Melynda Fuller

New York has long been the literary capital of the world: Dorothy Parker and her round table at the Algonquin, Norman Mailer digging up controversy with the Village Voice, and Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson at the White Horse Tavern. But the city’s scene can still get stale. Enter the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series, moving to Joe’s Pub in January.

Started in 2003 by Amanda Stern, author of the novel The Long Haul and host of popular events like the PEN American Center’s lit series, Happy Ending quickly became one of the best-loved literary tickets in town. In the LES massage parlor turned bar (also named The Happy Ending for “extras” available at the end of massages decades ago), the first event had a star-studded lineup: A.M. Homes and Mary Gaitskill each read from work while Rick Moody performed with his group the Wingdale Community Singers.

Amanda Stern, founder of the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series

Since then, the bi-monthly event has hosted everyone from David Rakoff to Jennifer Egan to Nick Flynn. It was called “the city’s most vital author series” by Time Out New York. The New York Times Magazine lauded Stern as “a new bohemian…who is keeping downtown alive.”

What sets this series apart is the compromising positions the performers may find themselves in—something the building is no stranger to. They always in some sense take a risk, whether that means a shy writer singing in front of the audience or reading from a high-school diary. Musical performers are expected to cover a song and get the audience to sing along—difficult for even the most popular bands to accomplish in a place like New York.

December 17th marks the last event at the Happy Ending Bar, with writers Sadia Shepard, Ben Markovits and Sana Krasikov and music from Randy Kaplan. But once settled in their new digs, there’s no doubt that the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series will remain one of the stalwarts of the New York literary scene. With the New Year, a new legacy will begin downtown.



3 responses

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    First some housekeeping—

    1) Apologies for misspelling “Lunesta.” If you had spell-check here that wouldn’t happen. Also, I myself have never had any trouble whatsoever falling asleep so I’m not terribly familiar with such things.

    2) I promise not to kill you. I got into some awful trouble last time I did that and rest assured I’ve learned my lesson.

    3) I promise not to kidnap you. You need a car trunk for that. I do have a car but it’s a hatchback.

    4) Are you really instituting a ticking clock on “Operation Craigan?” Fer reals? I’ll do my best but March 20 ain’t much time.

    4a) How much egg would there be on your face if I actually managed to convince Craig to sit in a box in front of your building?

    5) Did little children actually laugh at your lunchbox? Was it a “Charlie’s Angels” lunchbox? “Wonder Woman?” Na, you’re darker than that. My guess: “A Harold and Maude” lunchbox. Lookit this way—those little children grew up to work at dead-end jobs for small wages. And you’re a published author who runs a popular reading series. You win!

    6) Hints? If you’re gonna take the bull by the horns I hope you’re wearing iron gloves.

    Okay! I’m a writer. I live in Brooklyn. And my cocktail of choice is a Vodka and soda.

    I’m starved! Can I eat now?

  2. Amanda Stern Avatar
    Amanda Stern

    1) I forgive you

    2) Thank you.

    3) Again, thank you.

    4) I changed my mind. Break them up.

    4a) Sunny side up.

    5) No. No one made fun of my lunchbox. I was John Travolta’s child bride (uh-oh, I’m starting to see a theme in my life) so he was on my lunchbox. Harold and Maude was my favorite movie. Until Rebel Without a Cause. Until Ordinary People. And then Diner.

    6) Hmmm…that sounds suspiciously like me. Except I don’t drink anymore. But when I did, vodka soda. Drink of choice. Are you…me? Oh my God, am I writing these comments to myself? Do I have a split personality? Do I have a crush on myself??

    7) Do you write fiction? Journalist? Are your initials the same letter twice?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Great movie choices! A black comedy, a story of teen angst and rebellion, a sad, depressing tale about the break-up of an American family, and finally, what may be the perfect comedy ever made. A shrink (yours or mine) might have a field day with the significance of these four films.

    I realized (probably just as you were) that my hints could just as easily have described you as they do me. Weird! And, totally unintentional, I swear!

    I completely endorse you having a crush on yourself. Doing so puts me in good company.

    No to fiction. Very infrequently a journalist. No to the initials being the same letter twice. (nice try tho)

    And finally, I’ve started getting spam for cheap drugs from Canada…including Lunesta! What does this mean?

    Happy Valentines Day, Amanda!

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