As official Washington begins to trickle back to work in this new year, the city’s cultural institutions are getting back into the swing of things, too.
American Letters From Abroad
Politics and Prose bookstore is hosting a couple of American literature’s heaviest hitters on back-to-back days: Chang-rae Lee and Gary Shteyngart. Lee, a Korean-American, and Shteyngart, a Russian-American, present vivid and weird representations of the American experience. Both were born abroad (in Seoul and Leningrad, respectively) and are tied closely to their respective immigrant communities. They are also thoroughly American, having come to the United States at young ages and having succeeded in a profession among the most difficult to break into: writing novels. And, as they are both 40-something and firmly in Generation X, there’s a bit of desperation, humor and sadness in their writing. Perfect for the times.
Lee, the author of such books as “Aloft,” will read from his latest novel, “On Such a Full Sea,” on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. Shteyngart, the author of “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook” and the more recent “Super Sad True Love Story,” will read from his forthcoming memoir, “Little Failure,” on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. Both events are free at the Politics and Prose flagship at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Hill Center’s Packed Schedule
Hill Center here on Capitol Hill has a dense set of upcoming events. On Jan. 7, the cultural center at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE will partner with ITVS Community Cinema to present a free screening of “Las Marthas,” a documentary about the monthlong (!) annual debutante ball in Laredo, Texas. The Society of Martha Washington’s coming-out ceremonies are quite a sight to see, and provide a look at American culture that will be news indeed for many. The film starts at 7 p.m.
The National Symphony Orchestra fills up the calendar later in the week, with its NSO in Your Neighborhood program. On Jan. 9, the NSO will present a chamber performance featuring flautist Aaron Goldman, clarinetist Eugene Mondie and bassoonist Sue Heineman, starting at 7:30 p.m. and going until 9:30 p.m. On Jan. 10, the NSO brings in its “Jazz Night Club,” featuring several musicians including violinists Glenn Donnellan, Terri Lee and Jan Chong, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Both events are free, but those interested are encouraged to register at Hill Center’s website.
Cracker, Camper Check In
If you don’t get your fill of Gen X signifiers from Lee and Shteyngart, you’re in luck: Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven are playing the 9:30 Club on Jan. 11. Cracker, which initially grew out of the disbanding of Camper, headlines. Perhaps to show how all of us Gen Xers roll these days, it’s an early, 6 p.m. show at 815 V St. NW. Twenty-five bucks to get in.
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick