Tonight there was a party for a book that is coming out in May that was billed in the email subject line as a “media event” and an “advance celebration” in the body of the email and, in the attached .jpg invitation — which featured the party’s honoree in a tank top and a gray skirt made out of what appeared to be jersey material and black boots — as a “first look.” The invitation also promised an open bar until 8:30 p.m. and seeing as there are not so many book parties anymore, let alone ones with open bars, let alone ones that are held three months before a book’s release, and that the parties of the “holiday season” are now a distant memory and no one has seen anyone else for ages, by the time I got to the place where it was being held – a bar called The Wooly, in the Woolworth Building on Barclay Street just off Broadway, with a door that is almost hidden – a little before 8, it was packed, and there was a young woman who was checking coats attempting to hang jackets on a rack high above me, and it was only after a bit of cajoling that she agreed to take my backpack.
I do not remember when I first met Jon-Jon Goulian; he is one of those figures in the “New York literary scene,” such as it is, whom “everyone,” such as they are, knows. It is not just that he goes to all the parties (because he does go to all the parties) or that I am one of his 1,197 Facebook friends, but also that he has a very striking appearance: he is muscular and tattooed and has a shaved head and piercing eyes, which he usually rims with eyeliner. He is always wildly enthusiastic to see you and remembers little details about you, which is an endearing quality. Everyone likes Jon-Jon.
The people at the party who had already read the galley of his book – which is called The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt, and is a memoir largely about his life as a professional dilettante, to the extent that being a professional dilettante is not itself oxymoronic, and how he likes to wear women’s clothing and how he worked for a couple years at the New York Review of Books as Robert Silvers’ assistant – said that it was very good.
I saw Jon-Jon by the bar and he seemed excited to see me, and he said that he thought of me when he was writing the preface and that I would know why when I read it, because it had to do with a website I worked on, and I told him he probably says that to everyone and he shook his head no, emphatically, and then he introduced me to a couple editors whose names I have forgotten.
So I got a glass of champagne and ran into my friend and we agreed that there were a lot of people one sees at parties at this party, and we went up a small flight of stairs and stood at a remove from the rest of the party for a few minutes. A man with a tray offered us a pan-fried dumpling. Another woman joined us and we discussed how her necklace called attention to her breasts, but she said this was not deliberate, and in fact she was wearing black so her breasts were difficult to see, in any case. We talked about who else we had seen at the party: that couple who had split up, but were now back together; and that New Yorker writer and that other New Yorker writer; and that agent; and that Harper’s editor and that woman who writes about being a woman; and some former co-workers of mine, and a former boss, who later gave me a double-kiss; and Elizabeth Wurtzel, who told me she had eaten two bowls of Froot Loops earlier.
When I went to get my coat the coat check girl said it was in the other place and it would just be a moment, and in the meantime I checked my email on my phone and there was nothing really of consequence on there.