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Writers, including Jonathan Franzen, rally for novelist Charles Bock and his family

January 10, 2011 |  5:20 pm

Litrentparty
Friends of writer Charles Bock are throwing a party to raise funds for him and his family and calling it the World's Most Literary Rent Party Ever. The lineup shows that Bock has some stellar literary supporters, including Mary Gaitskill, Richard Price, Gary Shteyngart, Josh Ferris, Jonathan Safran Foer and Jonathan Franzen.

Why is Franzen, the man whom Time magazine dubbed "Great American Novelist" last year, chipping in to help another author pay rent? Well, he, and the rest of Bock's supporters, has a good reason.

Bock's debut novel, "Beautiful Children," was released to much praise in 2008. "Bock does an admirable job parsing out a lost world of strippers, runaways and amateur pornographers, along with the casual brutality that accompanies it, and captures the hallucinogenic setting like a fever dream," wrote Tod Goldberg in our review.

After the book was released, Bock and his wife had a child, and his wife became stricken with cancer, which went into remission but returned in late 2010.

Writers Leigh Newman, Mary-Beth Hughes and Fiona Maazel, all friends of Bock and his family, found themselves feeling helpless. "Charles is a magnificent, generous, talented person, as is his wife. We loved them and their child and wanted to help," Newman told Jacket Copy by e-mail. The idea for the fundraiser was born.

"It's been wonderful," Newman continued. "So many people involved with this party have been babysitting or even spending the night if Charles and his wife need to be in the hospital. Others have cooked food or helped out with expenses or just showed up to visit and keep everybody's spirits as high as possible. To be honest, I feel so uplifted just being around them -- we're all helping each other, ultimately."

Only two of the participating authors -- Gaitskill and Jim Shepard -- will read at the Most Literary event. Rivka Galchen, A.M. Homes, Susan Cheever, Hannah Tinti and John Wray will dispense "unprofessional guidance" at a literary advice booth. A silent auction will include services from Amy Hempel, who will offer literary dog walking; Josh Ferris, who will make a key lime pie; and Gary Shteyngart, who promises to take the winner out for "for hot dogs and shameless flattery."

There will also be music -- from John Wesley Harding (who is also the author Wesley Stace), Claudia Gonson from the Magnetic Fields, Tonya Donnelly from the Throwing Muses and author Rick Moody. Other authors involved, including Frazen, are contributing signed copies of their books as raffle prizes. 

"In a larger way, the Bocks' plight is very American story -- healthcare in this country does not necessarily cover families, even if they have coverage," Newman wrote. "For writer and artists, who often have to find insurance on their own, this is a serious problem, long term. Which is why we  encourage people to donate on the webstie if they can't come to the party -- even the smallest amount helps."

The World's Most Literary Rent Party Ever will be held in New York on Feb. 6 at PS122. Tickets, which are on sale now, are $75 and $125. Those who want to help but can't attend can make online donations through the event's website.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: The World's Most Literary Rent Party

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