In a magically lit room at the City Winery in Manhattan last Wednesday, the Bushwick Bookclub kicked off their monthly event complete with comedy, live music, and even dog barks. The dark ambiance and glowing light set the mood just right as performers put on 16 comedic and musical acts inspired by Swedish novel by Reidar Jonsson, My Life As a Dog.
The Bushwick Bookclub was founded by New Yorker Susan Hwang in 2009 while she was working for the bar and restaurant venue Goodbye Blue Monday in Bushwick.
“(In 2009) I began writing and performing songs based on different narratives,” Hwang said. “I then asked different musicians and songwriters to participate. In recent years, we’ve been incorporating different elements like dancers and other performers.
Wednesday’s event was a special collaboration between the Bushwick Bookclub in Brooklyn and the Bushwick Bookclub Malmo in Sweden. The co-founders of the Swedish bookclub, Thomas Teller and Kristian Carlsson, co-hosted the event with Hwang.
Hwang says the book club brings different musicians from different scenes and genres together, including local hip-hop artists like spiritchild.
The essence of the monthly series Bushwick Bookclub is to present responses to books in live form, according to Hwang. At its core, it was also about performing music, often written by the performers themselves.
The Bushwick Bookclub has now expanded to include a Bushwick Bookclub in Seattle and in Sweden, after members of the original group collaborated with musicians and writers in other cities. Hwang said she met Seattle bookclub founder Geoff Larson after they played together in the band Ching Chong Song. Larson loved the Bookclub so much that he started a chapter when he relocated to Seattle in 2010. In 2012, the Swedish chapter took off.
“The book club became international because I think the idea of creativity being born of creativity is irresistible,” Hwang said. “Music from books and songs from stories is an irresistible combination of the kind of creativity that humans live for.”
The Bookclub’s annual Kurt Vonnegut shows still take place at Goodbye Blue Monday in Bushwick. However, the Bookclub has branched out and now books venues in Manhattan and the larger Brooklyn area to reach new audiences and meet different musicians, according to Hwang.
“The Bookclub is a force, and it stared in Bushwick because it’s a unique kind of night,” Hwang said. “It’s experimental and unlike other Manhattan clubs where you have to pay rent – (those clubs) are just there to make money.”
The Bushwick Bookclub meets each month – they are set to meet next on Sept. 19 at Dixon Place to present music inspired by Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Like them on Facebook to follow their news & updates.