Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Swank Swink

I went with some friends to a party last night for the literary magazine Swink, which has just produced its second print volume. The party was at The Cutting Room, which is co-owned by Chris Noth of Law & Order fame. Chris wasn't around, but his burgers were good.

Lubricated by free Stoli vodka in flavors, we enjoyed readings by five writers: Sam Lipsyte, David Goodwillie and Manuel Muñoz, who did some short fiction, and two people who did excerpts from their memoirs. Felicia Sullivan read a piece from "Fighting Shoes," about having to be a parent to her coke-addicted mother. And stirring the most whispering was Jesse Friedman, whose family's story was related in the documentary, "Capturing The Friedmans."

In 1987 Jesse and his father Arnold were arrested at their Great Neck home on child molestation charges which are now widely believed to have been falsely alleged. At the age of 19, Jesse was sent to prison for 13 years. His essay, "Sitting the Backseat of a Sedan," tells of a trip from Elmira to New York in chains to attend his father's funeral.

Looking at Jesse, who is soft-spoken and balding, you realize that one does not have to appear to be as wacko as Jacko to be suspected of lurid goings-on with children. Remember Buck Henry's "Uncle Roy" character from Saturday Night Live?

I wondered, if there were not strong evidence to the contrary that this guy didn't harm any kids, would Swink have still had him doing a reading? Would it still have been cool or would it have been morally bankrupt? If I had kids, would I instinctively yank them out of the way when I saw this guy coming?

At any rate, the case of the Friedmans is a sad and horrifying one, and now the DVD with the extra disc is on my "rent this soon" list.

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