Undead Authors

Photo courtesy of Kei Izumi/Flickr

Photo courtesy of Kei Izumi/Flickr

Sophia Lucente
    Staff Writer

On this year’s Halloween eve, both literary lovers and music fans will have a cozy and convenient place in downtown Greensboro. Scuppernong Books on Elm Street will host their second annual Undead Authors Halloween Party along with local band Joy on Fire beginning at 7:00 p.m.

The independent bookstore, which opened its doors on Dec. 21, 2013, functions as a museum of unique reads, a classy eatery and a social hub. The small and knowledgeable staff hosts events there most nights out of the week including discussion groups, poetry slams and live music.

Neatly arranged between walls of moss green and aging brick, the space stretches deeply into its building. In the back is a meeting area; it is comfortable and inviting, with massive green armchairs arranged around wicker coffee tables. There are bookshelves everywhere, even in places one wouldn’t expect: a few are built into a wide bar, just inches away from foodies’ dangling feet. At Scuppernong, everything radiates positivity and clear-headedness, from the colorful rack of reading glasses to the floor-to-ceiling windows. The shop’s signature stuffed foxes and several pumpkins dot the entryway with festive flashes of orange.

Last year’s party encouraged attendees to dress up as their favorite writers. This year, the staff has added a little more spice: Come dressed as your favorite undead author. “Special points if your costume incorporates how they died,” adds a post on their Facebook page. “Even more special points if it’s tasteless!”

Owner Brian Lampkin says he has high hopes for this year’s costume turnout, mentioning that last year featured appearances by H.G. Wells, David Foster Wallace, Simone de Beauvoir and – his personal favorite – “Rough stories on the rise and fall of their writers of choice.

To illustrate, Lampkin mentioned Japanese poet, playwright and film director Yukio Mishima. After spearheading a failed coup d’état in 1970, the writer famously committed a premeditated suicide, first through seppuku, a form of honorable self-destruction in the face of persecution, and concluding the act via decapitation with the help of another member of their militia.

A more well-known story is that of Sylvia Plath. Scuppernong staff members challenge participants to achieve her “look” in a way that doesn’t involve a literal oven. A gift certificate will be awarded to the guest with the best costume.

The soundtrack to the evening will be similarly experimental and thoroughly exciting. Joy on Fire was formed in Baltimore in 2009, and is self-described “punk-jazz/fuzz-rock.” When saxophonist Anna Meadors was accepted into the composition program in UNCG’s School of Music, she and cofounder John Paul Carillo relocated to Greensboro, where they say progress and opportunities abound. They attest that new music here is plentiful, whether it’s “contemporary classical or indie rock.”

The sounds of Joy on Fire are energetic and progressive, featuring dark, edgy bass lines reminiscent of rock licks on a spectrum from the Pixies to Black Sabbath combined with the punctuated horn melodies whose addition call to mind Herbie Hancock jams.

“John comes from a self-taught punk and rock background, and I grew up taking classical saxophone lessons and playing in jazz big bands in school,” explained Meadors. “There was a lot of overlap in what we both listened to prior to working together, but these two perspectives have created our sound.”

The songs available on their Bandcamp page are long, averaging about 10 minutes each and take listeners on thrilling instrumental journeys. Their Halloween set will seek to illustrate their own ingenuity as well as the homage they pay to musicians past. A few new songs will even surface, one of which Meadors says is “pretty heavy” and might remind viewers of the Beastie Boys; another is a tribute to John Coltrane’s “Olé.”

Their three existing songs comprise the group’s first self-titled album, and were composed meticulously. Carillo, who plays guitar and bass, says their goal was to give listeners a cinematic-like experience in listening.

“There is a playfulness – improv, surprising turns, unexpected sounds – within the bombast of our structures,” he told the Carolinian. “[It is] a sinister sort of fun on the one hand, [and] a spiritual searching on the other.”

Undead Authors and regular patrons alike can look forward to plenty of candy, a wine bar and beer on tap in addition to Joy’s entertainment. Scuppernong also boasts a full-service kitchen; guests will be able to purchase cold sandwiches (like turkey, ham, Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian), hot sandwiches (salmon-bacon BLT, Gouda and apple, pimento cheese) and “not sandwiches” (hummus and focaccia toast).

A table full of creepy reads will be set up for kids and adults, including but not limited to “The Shining,” “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and “Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods.”

Those interested in diving into a frightening tale in the days leading up to Halloween can consider three Scuppernong staff member’s votes for the scariest book they’ve ever read: “Last Exit to Brooklyn” by Hubert Selby, Jr. (who also wrote “The Room”), “The Piano Teacher” by Janice Y.K. Lee and “Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism” by George McGovern.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Visual & Performance

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