Notes on Fiction: Marie-Helene Bertino

Thursday September 25, 2014
07:00 pm

Tags: Event





Photo Courtesty of Ted Dodson

As part of our Notes on Fiction series, we were thrilled to bring you a night of vibrant jazz celebrating the debut novel of former Emerging Writer Fellow Marie-Helene Bertino. The Steven Frieder Quartet performed music selected by Bertino that accompanied readings of her novel, 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas.    


About 2 A.M. At The Cat's Pajamas 

2 A.M. At The Cat's Pajamas begins on a quiet morning in a Philadelphia apartment the day before Christmas Eve, where we meet the precocious and smart-mouthed nine-year-old Madeleine Altimari.  Madeleine’s mother has recently died, and her father is still lost in his grief. Meanwhile, Madeleine finds solace in music and aspires to become a jazz singer. Just two days shy of her tenth birthday, she is about to have the most remarkable day of her life.


After facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine decides today is the day to find Philadelphia's legendary jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas, and make her debut. On the same day, Madeleine’s fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who has moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with her high school love. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Jack Lorca discovers that his beloved venue may close be closed due to financial woes by the end of the night. As we follow these three lost souls over the course of twenty-four hours, we also meet a cast of unique and brilliant characters who surround them – from the warm-hearted cafe owner Mrs. Santiago to Melissa, the former “snake lady” exotic dancer who might be Lorca’s last hope for love.  With sharp wit and irrepressible spirit, Marie-Helene Bertino turns Philadelphia into a magical place where anything can happen.


A sparkling and completely original novel, 2 A.M. At The Cat's Pajamas will capture your heart and make you root for Madeleine, Sarina, Lorca, and those whose lives they touch around them. 


Marie-Helene Bertino teaches at NYU, The Center for Fiction, The Sackett Street Workshops, and the Emerging Writer’s Workshop for One Story, where she was the Associate Editor.  She was an Emerging Writer Fellow at NYC’s Center for Fiction and has been invited to read and teach at bookstores and universities in America and abroad, including The Brooklyn Book Festival, The Iowa Writer’s Workshop, The University of Pennsylvania, New York University, Ithaca College’s New Voices Festival, and The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland.  She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Hedgebrook.  She hails from Philadelphia and lives in Brooklyn.


Her collection of short stories Safe As Houses received The 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award, judged by Jim Shepard, and was published in October of 2012.  It has been long listed for The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and The Story Prize, and was included in Top Ten Books of 2012 by Sean Carman at Huffington Post BooksThe Library Journal and Largehearted Boy.  She received the Pushcart Prize in 2007 and a Pushcart Special Mention in 2011.  Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Pushcart Prize Anthology XXXIII, North American Review, GiganticGulf CoastMississippi ReviewInkwellThe Indiana ReviewAmerican Short Fiction, Five ChaptersWest Branch, Electric Literature’s Recommended ReadingStoryvilleThe Common, and Mississippi Review’s Anthology 30. Bertino’s website: