Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Home from New York

New York and Brooklyn were fantastic, exhausting, surreal, and very encouraging. I was not at all certain what to expect, how I would be received, and what people would think of the book and the project but thankfully nearly everyone was very kind, encouraging, and truly interested in what I had created. There were some odd moments and some awkward instances, but overall the entire experience was a very positive one and I am grateful to everyone who made this possible.

Unfortunately, I did not get to take nearly as many pictures as I had hoped. Mostly I was just too busy, and when I wasn't too busy, I was kind of stunned at how surreal everything seemed. And when I wasn't stunned by the surreality, I was tired. Nonetheless, here are at least a few pictures of what I did last weekend.

My wife and I flew into New York on Thursday morning. I was part of an event that evening called the Brooklyn Book Festival Bookends Opening Night Party at this amazing bookstore called the powerHouse Arena. powerHouse is also a publisher and they've got a fairly incredible line-up of titles. The event was co-hosted by powerHouse, my publisher Tin House Books and this really great new literature and art magazine and web site named Electric Literature. Really really fine folks there. You should check out the site, their stories, and definitely their magazine. There were to be quite a few other people at this event, including Tin House magazine editor Rob Spillman, and readings from authors Kelly Link, Marc Basch, Elissa Schappell. My wife and I were staying in Manhattan, so we took the subway to Brooklyn and walked the rest of the way to the powerHouse Arena. On the way, we saw this...


...and this...


I had no idea these people occupied such a huge piece of what I would assume to be very expensive Brooklyn real estate. Not at all what I would have expected to see.

I had seen a few photos of the powerHouse Arena online and been a bit awed, but it is even more incredible inside. There really is what resembles an arena, or amphitheatre, with curved and tiered seating for an audience and a space for authors or performers. Here is what the store looks like from the bottom row of the arena seats...


You may now be able to see why I was getting a bit nervous. I was in New York, the heart of the publishing and art world, getting ready to share a few images of my project with a crowd of people who had presumably already seen and read everything under the sun. All in a bookstore which doubles as an architectural marvel. The image below, while blurry, nicely sums up how I felt. A tiny little thing sitting out in the open hoping bravely to not bomb...


Yes, that's an advance copy of my book, displayed proudly. I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing my name posted like this, as part of an "event" or a "reading," so I try to take a picture of this anytime I see it. This is the board announcing the night's festivities, and there I am...


This one is very dim, but here is a shot of me holding the mic, talking about the project, and looking at the book cover (which was projected on the wall)...


And here is a much much better shot, ganked from the Electric Literature blog which shows me a bit brighter and the cover on the wall...


By the way, you should read Electric Literature blog post about the event. They have a much better rundown of the whole thing, and many more photos.

There were way WAY more people there than I could have imagined too. It really freaked me out at first, but I think I did okay. All of the seating was full and the rest of the bookstore was standing room only. Here's part of the crowd...


All in all, the event was a huge success for me, I think. Rob Spillman was very kind, his wife Elisa Schappell was incredible to talk to and demonstrated a courage and ferocious passion for writing that I don't think I have ever experienced before. She was remarkable. I finally got to meet my agent Seth Fishman who is every bit as cool as I had thought he would be. Author Kelly Link was a blast to talk to, a deeply intriguing writer, and she had an excellent H.P. Lovecraft necklace on. The folks from Electric Literature, especially Benjamin Samuel, were wonderful to talk to and I hope to be able to contribute to their publications soon. Many people came up and congratulated me on the project and the book and asked a lot of unexpected but welcome questions. It really truly went great.

The next day, Friday, was a real whirlwind. First, it was off to Rob Spillman's home to sign advance copies of my book for sale at yet another party, Brooklyn's shockingly excellent new independendent bookstore Greenlight, and the Brooklyn Book Festival itself on Sunday. It was immensely kind of Rob to welcome my wife and I into his home, and he fed us too, which was even nicer. His family was great to talk to, and we learned that his daughter is the drummer in the band Care Bears on Fire. For these advance copies, I wanted to do more than just sign them, so I spent a good 90 minutes - which Rob was very patiently sat through - signing and drawing a rather detailed picture in all 22 copies. I really felt good doing that, and I was happy to be able to share something more individual with everyone that bought one of those copies. This is me sitting on Rob's back patio diligently drawing away...


And my wife and I, on Rob's patio. You can see a bit of one of the drawings in this one...


One of the biggest highlights of the trip for me though was getting to spend a bit of time visiting my friend the artist Shawn Cheng. Shawn has been so encouraging to me, for many many years now, and in so many ways I owe him just about everything. There never would have been a Moby-Dick illustration project or book without his friendship and advice, and he is an absolutely phenomenal artist as well. He is currently working like mad on a number of huge pieces for a solo show coming up in either February or May of 2012. I think I might actually be more excited about this than he is! Anyway, he was kind enough to take some time out from his workday to hang out with me in his Brooklyn studio and show me some of what he has been working on. Shawn keeps a well-maintained studio blog showing almost all of the work in progress. It is fascinating to visit. This is Shawn and I in his studio, and you can see some of his heartbreakingly gorgeous art in progress all around us...


Finally, it was off to the party at the Greenlight Bookstore. Although my book is not officially out yet, there were advance copies floating around, and it was an absolute thrill to finally see my own work sitting on a display table in a real bookstore in Brooklyn...


And of course, even better to see my book so close to a scantily clad woman.

So that's my New York trip. I may be back, but there are still a lot of upcoming events in October and November. I'll take more pictures for those.

7 comments:

Sandy Longhorn said...

Matt, this is all amazing. Thanks for sharing. So glad your weekend went well. Can't wait to get a copy of the book for myself!

Titus said...

Thanks for the tour. And wow!

Fernando Velásquez said...

i just got your book on the mail. i preordered it after discovering your art through this blog. and i am still amazed. moby dick is my favorite novel ever, so this comes from fan to fan.

so matt, thanks for the wonderful work and keep it up!

JB said...

Got the book today from Greenlight, and I'm loving it so far. Looking forward to showing it off to my artist and teacher friends this week.

Matt Kish said...

Many many thanks to all of you, and to every single person who ordered my book. It is such an amazing feeling to see nearly 2 years of my life safely housed between the covers of such a beautiful object. Quite literally a dream come true.

Kareena said...

Matt--my brother and I decided that we each want a signed copy by Thanksgiving! :) hehe, just kidding...no wait, really, can we make that happen?

So proud of you, Matt! We can't wait to see the book in the flesh!

visit sounds around said...

i just came across your book , shame I didn't do it in time to get to one of your events. looking forward to checking it out.
i.e. the watchtower - they own more real estate in the brooklyn heights area than anyone else - they've been there a very long time. I think they bought it all up in the early 80's when the drug problems began for brooklyn and it was not a place to be