SPOTTY DOG BOOKS & ALE

Two 'dorks' pump up the Volume in Hudson, NY

Reclusive literati come out and play in a converted firehouse on the second Saturday of every month

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HUDSON, N.Y. — For many book-lovers, peak nighttime entertainment consists of curling up with a new paperback or hardcover at home. There, they can embark on intellectual journeys that are thrilling or romantic or humorous without ever having to ditch their blanket cocoons.

Since 2015, the Volume reading and music series has managed to pry a fair amount of these after-dark recluses from their cozy reading spots. In addition to hosting acclaimed authors such as Gary Shteyngart, Maria Dahvana Headley, Nick Flynn and Chaya Bhuvaneswar, the free monthly event at The Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, N.Y., has used a post-reading DJ set to nudge the literati to socialize.

"The idea was the music would help facilitate the nerd-mingling," said Hallie Goodman, who organizes the events with Dani Grammerstorf French.

Coupled with the beer and wine available for purchase at the bar lining one side of the shop, the tunes have helped ensure that this reading series doesn't evoke a library gathering.

"It's really raucous for a reading series. It's really high-energy," Goodman said.

On Saturday night, Julian Nagy, also known as DJ Salinger, will spin following readings by Emily Sieu Liebowitz, Jaclyn Gilbert and Richard Klin that begin at 7 p.m. Liebowitz and Gilbert are Brooklyn-based scribes who, along with Klin, have had books published in 2018. Liebowitz's "National Park" (Gramma), the poet's first collection, explores the contours of language and country; Gilbert's "Late Air" (Little A), the author's debut novel, examines loss and a failed marriage. Hudson Valley-based Klin's novel, "Petroleum Transfer Engineer" (Underground Voices), tracks a subterranean gas station employee's reckoning with southern New Jersey's development.

The lineup is typical of Volume, which often features one poet and two prose-focused writers. The organizers also weigh more specific author qualities. For example, they might pair a major commercial author with a more experimental one.

"We really put a lot of thought into the chemistry and contrast between our writers," Goodman said.

They can be picky because of the series' popularity. Standing room-only crowds are common.

"We've never had an empty reading," French said.

Light attendance at book events isn't unusual for famous scribes, so Volume is invigorating for many of them.

"Even big-deal, famous writers have shown up to empty rooms [elsewhere]," Goodman said.

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The Spotty Dog is far from a vacant space. Opening in 2005, the historic former home of C.H. Evans Hook and Ladder Company offers well-stocked shelves and a bar that touts 12 craft beers on tap, including C.H. Evans' Pump Station Pale Ale.

"I was in love with Spotty Dog. I thought it was a really special bookstore," Goodman said of her early impressions of the shop.

But it didn't have a regular reading series at which the former New York City resident could meet other writers and readers.

"I really wanted a literary community where I live, and I knew there were a bunch of incredible writers up here," Goodman said.

She approached French, a Hudson-based writer who had also spent time living in New York City. She co-founded the Guerrilla Lit Reading Series there.

"It's something I really missed up here," French said.

The two "dorks" (French's word) came up with the Volume concept and met with Spotty Dog owners Kelley Drahushuk and Alan Coon. They quickly agreed to it.

"They've been really, really supportive," Goodman said of the owners.

Communities both near and far have embraced it, too. Along with Hudson Valley regulars, visitors from Great Barrington and north of Albany have attended the second-Saturday-of-the-month events. The organizers hope that spectators wary of such events will be comforted by the readings' combined one-hour time limit.

"And then the music comes on," Goodman said.

Sometimes, the DJ may just be a local writer providing a playlist to accompany book-buying and signing. There is no mandate on the genre of music played. The only requirement is that the tunes begin immediately after the readings; even two minutes of silence can cause enough awkwardness to scatter the more bookish types, according to the organizers. But they have found that the music does tend to grease the wheels of social interaction and, on occasion, they may even see a brave few dancing.

"If we're lucky," Goodman said.

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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