Your typical literary reading is not a thing that tends to lead to physical fights and broken glasses. But at last night's Vol. 1 Brooklyn, an end-of-summer poetry and prose event on Manhattan's Lower East attended by novelists Miles Klee and Jami Attenberg, what was shaping up to be a harmonious meeting of literary minds turned into something a bit more dramatic.
Attenberg writes on her Tumblr: "I want to talk for a second about what happened last night at the Vol 1. Brooklyn reading at CultureFix, and the fight that ensued, an act shocking at the very least because we are all such sedentary creatures, we book people." There were some 75 people at the event hosted by Flavorpill Deputy Editor and Vol.1 Founder Jason Diamond, "one of the nicest people in the literary scene in New York," she writes, adding that all attendees were well-behaved, and, yes, they were drinking, too. Attenberg got up to read last, and at that moment, a bartender moved through the room picking up glasses, apparently walking in front of her as she read. She writes:
So after I finished reading, Jason got up to introduce the last reader, and said something like, “Sorry for this place sounding like a piano bar with all the glasses clinking,” and then the bartender said, “If you all would have brought your glasses to the bar,” and then there was some more back and forth, and honestly I wish I could remember exactly what was said because I couldn’t really believe it was happening but I do remember the bartender calling the whole lot of us, “Pretentious.”
As per her account, yelling followed, and the bartender left the room. Klee explains in a piece for BlackBook, "Mr. Diamond followed the bartender through a curtain to the bar area, called him 'a real piece of shit' and then engaged in a scuffle. Apparently Mr. Diamond received a headbutt that broke his glasses. The fight continued—briefly pausing Mr. Robbins’ reading of a poem called 'My New Asshole,' which he had loudly dedicated to the bartender—until various parties exhorted both men to consider their life, choices, etc. The bartender vanished. The party broke up. Afterward, out on Clinton Street, Mr. Robbins could be heard asking at high volume whether anyone wanted to buy his book."
But of what actually started, and then escalated, the whole drama, there are countering opinions, and our call to CultureFix for comment resulted only in confirmation that there is still more confusion about who was actually to blame. Cole Schaffer, the founder of CultureFix, told The Atlantic Wire, "I've spent my day trying to get information out of people; I'm trying to figure out if my bartender hit this person in any way. Right now, I have no information that has helped me come to any conclusion as to what happened other than from the two people involved in the physical altercation, and I have conflicting statements from the two of them. No one not directly involved with this who would have an unbiased opinion has given me any information." He added, "I'm embarrassed to see this happening at this bar, and I'm embarrassed to see it called a brawl. This in no way emulates or personifies what I do for a living. I've never been in a fight in my life, and the reason I opened this bar was to make something different for the nightlife of New York City and from what I view as a pretty typical scene in New York Bars. It's possibly a huge detriment to my small business."
Other readers at the event included Marci Blackman, Melissa Broder, Ariana Reines, Michael Robbins, and Justin Taylor, and by all accounts the lion's share of the evening was smooth and quite enjoyable. We hope this other side of things is just a tempest in a literary teakettle. At this point, Diamond at least appears to be taking the glass-is-half-full perspective, tweeting, "The brightside is that I've been trying to convince my wife to let me get new glasses."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.