“12th Street,” the award winning literary magazine published by The New School’s Riggio Writing and Democracy Program, heralded the release of their fifth issue on May 9.For those familiar with events related to writing at The New School, the venue for the latest release of “12th Street” may seem strange, even grandiose. At 7 p.m. that night, a crowd of roughly 60 people gathered on the fourth floor of the Barnes and Noble bookstore atop Union Square, and thus the reading began.
After a brief introduction by writing program director Robert Polito, whose disarmingly abrupt attempts to make eye contact with the audience belied how-to articles on effective public speaking, magazine editor-in-chief Lila Selim took the podium. With a heartfelt compunction, she delivered her raison d’être for the evening’s event. The publication began in 2008 as an extension of The New School’s Riggio Writing and Democracy Program. Diverse and inspirational themes run through the lives of its students and permeate their creative works, and “12th Street” was founded in order to showcase them. This, she argued, is where writing and democracy intersect.
“The writing becomes democratic once it reaches you,” Selim said.
Student readers Tim Jones, Timothy Ryan, and Milana Velasquez-Stewart each added their own stories to the Riggio program’s merit. From Jones’s shy but endearing delivery of his memoir portraying life on meth in 1980s San Francisco, to Velasquez-Stewart’s tale of tragic urban love, to Ryan’s slam-poetic narrative of today’s post-modern societal ills.
The newest issue also features works of short fiction, poetry, and interviews with 26-year-old pen-and-paper prodigy Tèa Obreht, Vanity Fair contributing editor Elissa Schappell, and British-Indian author Salman Rushdie. While the first two served as the night’s biggest hitters, Rushdie was not present. Obreht, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and Harpers, read from her debut novel, “The Tiger’s Wife,” the 2011 winner of the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction.
“I’m really honored to be here in support of ‘12th Street,’” said Obreht, during the event. “What a pretty incredible joy for me, and what incredible readings from everybody who just went. Thank you for having me be a part of it.”
Schappell closed the show by reading a hilarious selection from “Blueprints for Building Better Girls,” her forthcoming book of fiction well worth buying and reading.
The latest issue of “12th Street” is available now at Barnes and Noble, as well as other books and magazine retailers.