“All in all, from start to finish, it’s always a great experience.” – Jonathan Ames


At Happy Ending, authors are required to TAKE ONE PUBLIC RISK. This means they must do something on stage that they have never done before. Here are a handful of the risks people have taken.


Lena Dunham prank called her mother, pretending she was an old college friend who’d just experienced a “recovered memory” that involved her.


Etgar Keret smoked an entire joint onstage

Etgar smokes

Jessica Anthony sang “What a Feelin’” in sign language


Zadie Smith took a shot equal to the number on rolled dice. The number was 6.

Hannah Pittard Skyped her mother to admit she’d had sex

Hannah Pittard

Lucy Corin gave a science lecture without understanding her lecture topic

Michael Cunningham gave a five minute lecture on the entire history of English literature.

Julie Orringer played “2 second animal,” with the audience, a game she made up on an airplane

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Ryan Harty breathed fire


Nell Freudenberger got a pie in the face


Kevin Wilson read obituaries he wrote for himself in high school. Each one cast him as a man of great importance in fields as varied as football and movie star

kevin wilson

Jennifer Egan drew candid pictures of the performers in action.

Jennifer Egan

Sarah Manguso read her intake form from the hospital

Andrew Sean Greer swapped entire outfits with a female audience volunteer, onstage!

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Jonathan Caouette gave everyone his home address and telephone number

Colson Whitehead read pop-culture Haikus he wrote (and showed off how much he was sweating).


Tanguy Viel recreated his junior high graph that charted his friendships


Victor Lodato read from his book after sucking in helium


Manil Suri did a Bollywood dance number in full costume

Paul Harding read his one star Amazon reviews


Noy Holland balanced spoons off her nipples


Paul La Farge ate a tub of wasabi


Laurie Sandell read her unbearably pretentious college essay, aloud.


Brian Selznick recreated a song and dance number from a high school play

Brian Selznick

Jonathan Ames kissed David Cross on the mouth

David Cross kissed Jonathan Ames on the mouth

Nathaniel Rich played recordings of the band he had at age 9, “2 Live Moo”


Lauren Groff took a drink onstage

Lauren Groff

Stephen Elliott made out with a stranger from the audience


Elissa Schappell took a cartwheel.

Elissa Schappell

A.M. Homes speed-dated 4 members of the audience

Richard Price told a personal story about his family


Ian Chillag had a legally blind audience member cut his hair onstage


Benjamin Percy bench-pressed the host, Amanda Stern


Rattawut Lapcharoensap taught the audience Thai cheers.

Zadie Smith drew a self-portrait on her pregnant belly

Zadie belly

John Wray told Michiko Kakutani a thing or two


James Salter read from his 1972 journal when he was writing Light Years.


Aimee Bender improvised a story telling session, by telling a fairy tale in the style of Mad Libs. She used the audience members as the part of speech participants.

Lauren Groff batoned her heart out.


Rick Moody sang acapella a song he had written recently.

Trinie Dalton undressed.


John Lurie played harmonica for the first time on stage in 35 years.

Wells Tower baked and handed out bacon and chocolate chip cookies


Arthur Philips lived out his long time dream of being a matador.


Danzy Senna took volunteers from the audience to act out scenes from L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology manual.

Ben Greenman read aloud his pin codes and credit card numbers


Lowell Handler told Tourette jokes

. Lowell Handler has Tourette syndrome.

Laurie Anderson did a Power Point presentation

Jim Shephard revealed a portrait made of his as an awkward adolescent.

Jim Shepard

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