One year after its launch, marked by the publication of Padgett Powell’s Cries For Help, Various , Catapult returned to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe on Wednesday night to celebrate its newest release, Nine Island , a nonfiction novel by Jane Alison. “ Nine Island is a crackling incantation,” says Laura Groff, author of Fates and Furies , “brittle and brilliant and hot and sad and full of sideways humor that devastates and illuminates all at once.”
Billed as “What Women Want: Catapult authors and instructors on love and desire,” the event—headlined by Alison and moderated by Catapult Editor and Director of Writing Programs Julie Buntin—included Morgan Jerkins, contributing editor to Catapult , our online magazine, and Alana Massey, a Catapult instructor.
Accomplished authors in their own right, with debut essay collections forthcoming from Harper Perennial (Jerkins) and Grand Central Publishing (Massey), both writers opened the night’s festivities with readings from their own works. Massey mused on the public personas of Fiona Apple, Lana Del Rey, and Dolly Parton. Jerkins, meanwhile, shared a personal and touching essay about the nature of illicit desire. Soon after, Alison took to the stage and treated the audience to a reading from the opening chapter of Nine Island :
“I stopped near Annapolis to see my mother. She is a lady who’s sailed the seas of love, all the way from Australia. She’s had a long career in men, trailing me along through husbands, then boyfriends, then the species of men who vanish by daybreak, until finally the seas dried up and she landed alone. She knows all about my wandering. Erring, as she calls it.”
The event's participants in a panel discussion.
After the readings concluded, Jerkins and Massey returned to the stage and, along with Alison, participated in a panel discussion centered around the event’s themes. The three women, led by Buntin, considered questions on female sexuality, desire, and tips on how to write effectively about sex in one’s work. “Want is the opposite of stasis,” Alison remarked. After the discussion audience members waited their turns to have their new copies of Nine Island signed while the sounds of Frank Ocean’s “Sierra Leone” played from the speakers overhead.