This week’s talks and readings: some heavy stuff, ending in laughs.

Wednesday, July 30

The Gatekeepers Screening
When The Gatekeepers was first released in 2012, NY Times film critic A.O. Scott recognized the Israeli documentary’s import. “It is hard,” he wrote, “to imagine a movie about the Middle East that could be more timely, more painfully urgent, more challenging to conventional wisdom on all sides of the conflict.” Several years later, as the war in Gaza stretches into its third week with no signs of abating, that urgency has if anything only become more pronounced. The Gatekeepers, directed by Dror Moreh, is a documentary comprised of interviews with six men—all of whom are former heads of Shin Bet (or “Shabak”), Israel’s shadowy security agency. The activities of the organization are closely held state secrets, but its apparent that since the 1967 war, Shabak’s energy has mostly been channelled into counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. Despite the spymasters’ crepuscular existence, Moreh manages to conduct candid interviews, resulting in a surprising clear-sighted, balanced, and often devastating look into the political machinations of the Israeli state.
8pm-11pm, The Base (1302 Myrtle Avenue, Bushwick), FREE

Friday, August 1
conv copyNatalie Eilbert reads from Conversations with the Stone Wife
Natalie Eilbert is a Brooklyn-based poet, whose work has appeared in Tin House and Guernica, among other publications. She’s just finished her first chapbook, Conversations with the Stone Wife, and will be reading selections to celebrate the debut. If you’re not an aspiring poet and have no idea what a “chapbook” is, the word refers to a small selection of poetry, often saddle-stitched into a manuscript, making it more amenable to a small print-run. Chapbooks frequently focus on one theme, circling around a central image. In Eilbert’s case, that image is supplied by the Venus of Willendorf, a nubile late-Paleolithic statuette found in Austria over a century ago. The poet uses the fleshy figurine as a starting point for meditations on body dysmorphia and the history of food issues, producing poems that are “artifacts of neuroses.” Read an extract here. Eilbert will be ably supported by Morgan Parker, Monica McClure and May-Lan Tan.
7:30pm, Mellow Pages Library (56 Bogart St #1S, Bushwick), FREE

Saturday, August 2
paul copy Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Outline of a Screenplay for a Film about Saint Paul (in the Form of Notes for a Production Director)
Italian Pier Paolo Pasolini was a filmmaker (specializing in the grotesque and the subversive), poet, novelist, journalist, playwright, painter, actor, and public intellectual, as well as both a Catholic and a Marxist, and—finally—a murder victim. Despite clearly being a man of action, even Pasolini couldn’t do it all, and having written a screenplay for a film about St. Paul, the project fell by the wayside and remained unrealized at the time of the director’s demise (in 1975).

The poetic, revolutionary text has now been translated into English for the first time, and will here be read by New Yorker staff writer Hilton Als, among others. Philosopher , who wrote the translation’s preface, notes of the project: “Pasolini’s wager is that the truth of which St. Paul is the divided bearer, the sacrificed militant, can make sense in the world of today, thus providing the latent universality of his thought.”
7pm, Light Industry (155 Freeman Street, Greenpoint), FREE (seating is limited and distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Box office opens at 6:30pm)

Monday, August 4
sing copySing in the Morning, Cry at Night with Barbara J. Taylor & Kaylie Jones
Barbara J. Taylor’s debut novel Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night draws the reader into Scranton, Pennsylvania, which aside from being the setting of The Office is America’s least happy region and the author’s hometown. Sing in the Morning is set in the early 20th Century, two months after a Fourth of July tragedy left little Daisy Morgan dead in a freak firework accident. Daisy’s parents are devastated, their marriage in tatters, while younger daughter Violet is weighed down by guilt; members of the small community believe that she is to blame for her sister’s untimely demise. Emotionally wrecked, Violet starts cutting school with older boy Stanley Adamski, whose own life was altered by a mining accident. Based on a true story, the haunting novel culminates in a blizzard and a birth. Taylor will read extracts, and participate in a discussion with publisher and novelist Kaylie Jones.
7pm, Bluestockings (172 Allen St), FREE

Wednesday, August 6

library copy The Public Library with Robert Dawson + Diane Caldwell
Since 1994, California-based photographer Robert Dawson has been travelling across the country, capturing images of public libraries—those hallowed, endangered urban oases of learning and contemplation. The result of his eighteen-year pilgrimage have now been collected into a handsome tome, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, which is simultaneously a visual record of America’s libraries, an examination of the manifold functions such institutions perform, and an impassioned lamentation over their steady decline from public consciousness. In the book’s foreword, veteran journalist Bill Moyers writes, “when a library is open, no matter its size or shape, democracy is open, too.” Dawson, in effect, presents a poignant argument for what’s at stake. He’ll be in conversation with Diane Cardwell, business reporter for The New York Times.
7-8pm, Strand Books (828 Broadway), buy a copy of the book or a $15 Strand gift card in order to attend

Thursday, August 7

Split Personality: Comedy and Storytelling
Broad City fans, you might want to earmark this one. Split Personality is a weekly storytelling and comedy show hosted by husband-and-wife team Patrick Clair and Jiji Lee. Their basic formula is part slam-style open mic (during which anyone can put their name in a bag for a chance to perform a five minute true story or sketch character), and part curated show, featuring special guest performers from New York’s comedy and storytelling elite. August’s first offering will showcase the comedic genius of Chris Kelly, writer for SNL, Emmy nominee (for the above sketch), and one of the driving forces behind Comedy Central’s runaway success, Broad City (which began in 2009 as a “cult hit” web-series). Kelly will be joined by Joanna Bradley of Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and laughs, no doubt, will be in plentiful supply.
7pm, Over the Eight Bar (594 Union Ave, at Richardson), FREE