I mentioned a few Brooklyn Book Fair Events in my post about all forthcoming Open Letter events (which I just updated), but the full schedule went up yesterday and, damn. If I were going, and if these were all taking place at different times, here are the panels I would attend:
Twisted Fables. Fiction has come a long way from Aesop, but the influence of fables in literature remains. Three contemporary fabulists—Lincoln Michel (Upright Beasts), Amelia Gray (Gutshot), and Porochista Khakpour (The Last Illusion)—discuss the state of the modern fable, the place of the trickster and the anthropomorphized animal in contemporary writing, and whether modern fables and fairy tales have morals and lessons to convey today. Moderated by Rahawa Haile.
The Internet: The Great Equalizer? The conventional wisdom is that the digital revolution was a democratizing force, ushering in a new era of equal participation and information sharing. Has this truth obscured a more complicated reality? Jon Ronson (So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed) looks at the overreach of virtual hordes, Astra Taylor (The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age) reveals the inequity and corporate exploitation behind the new landscape, and John Seabrook (The Song Machine), tech/culture reporter for the New Yorker, explores the possibilities and dangers of streaming services and other technologies revolutionizing music. Moderated by the host of WNYC’s “Note to Self” Manoush Zomorodi.
That Global 70s Show. For American audiences, familiar images of the shaggy-haired 1970s are often evoked in literature, movies, and television. How did that pivotal decade play out in other parts of the world, and how does it powerfully inform the works of Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel (The Body Where I Was Born), Chilean author Alejandro Zambra (My Documents), and Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov (The Physics of Sorrow) Moderated by Anderson Tepper.
The London Review of Books Presents: Fiction, Memoir, Criticism. Panelists Renata Adler, Elif Batuman, and Gary Indiana and moderator Christian Lorentzen will discuss the panelists’ writings in the modes of fiction, memoir, and criticism as well as current problems and possibilities in American journalism and literature.
Darkness and Light. After darkness there is light, then again darkness. 2015 Man Booker International Prize winner László Krasznahorkai (Seiobo There Below), Andrés Neuman (The Things We Don’t Do), and Naja Marie Aidt (Rock, Paper, Scissors) explore the unsettling cycles and silences of everyday life, moments that are felt but rarely articulated—allowing the reader to glimpse the transcendent in the ordinary with new intensity.
Translating Books for Youth presented by the PEN American Center. A discussion about the importance of bringing books from non-English speaking countries to young readers and some of the key issues faced in translating children’s and young adult books. Join children’s book publisher Claudia Zoe Bedrick, Publisher, Enchanted Lion Books; Julia Heim, translator, from Italian to English; Mara Lethem, translator, Spanish and Catalan to English; Lyn Miller-Lachmann, translator, Portuguese and Spanish to English and Alez Zucker, co-chair, PEN Translation Committee.
Subverting Tropes: Household Appliances, Talking Dogs, and Robinson Crusoe Novelists Naja Marie Aidt (Rock, Paper, Scissors), André Alexis (Fifteen Dogs) and Christian Kracht (Imperium) in conversation about their respective use of a mystery, a moral fable, and an adventure story to explore what happens when a son discovers his criminal father’s devastating secret in a broken toaster; dogs are given human consciousness and the power of speech; and a radical vegetarian and nudist anti-hero founds a South Seas colony dedicated to coconuts and sun. What do these clever subversions of tropes and genres have to teach us about ourselves? Moderated by Rivka Galchen.
Making a Novel from Life. All manner of fact and fiction are called upon under the term novel. Mitchell S. Jackson (The Residue Years), Sarah Gerard (Binary Star), and Valeria Luiselli (The Story of My Teeth) use personal experience and investigative research in their novels, each explorations of truth and myth-making. Moderated by Molly Rose Quinn, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
Binary Stars. A man preoccupied with P words and women, a comedy of errors narrated by a fascinated onlooker, someone whose job and life revolves around authors meets one of his idols. Daniel Alarcón (At Night We Walk in Circles), Anakana Schofield (Martin John), and Jonathan Galassi (Muse) create realities where their characters revolve around their fixations with other people. Join them as they discuss building conflict and complicated characters. Moderated by Camille Perri, Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Redrawing Boundaries. In the work of Eduardo Halfon (The Polish Boxer), Geoff Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi), and Francine Prose (Lovers at the Chameleon Club), there are outsiders trying to get in, insiders trying to get out, and all types of boundary making and breaking—from a salacious race car driver, to a jaded journalist, to a nomadic professor. Moderated by Ryan Chapman (Conversation Sparks).
Where Do We Go From Here? Income inequality together with gentrification and housing disparity is increasingly part of a critical national discussion. These issues face New Yorkers, but certainly don’t stop at the city limits. DW Gibson (The Edge Becomes the Center: An Oral History of Gentrification); Rosie Schaap (Drinking with Men); and playwright Dael Orlandersmith (Forever), Pulitzer Prize finalist and native of East Harlem, discuss whether gentrification is inevitable, the nature of the middle class today, and how race plays into these questions. Moderated by John Freeman, editor, A Tale of Two Cities: The Best and Worst of Times in Today’s New York.
The New Latin American Literature: A View from Within. A very special, freewheeling conversation among some of the leading lights of a new generation of Latin American writers—many of them both peers and friends—as they talk about how their work intersects, inspires, and speaks to each other across borders. Authors include Mexican writers Valeria Luiselli, Guadalupe Nettel, and Yuri Herrera; Chilean author Alejandro Zambra; and Argentine author Andrés Neuman. Moderated by Daniel Alarcón.
Community Bookstore presents: A Celebration of Elena Ferrante. The finale to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet arrives this fall with the publication of The Story of the Lost Child, marking an end to one of this decade’s most significant literary events. Join us for a panel discussion of Ferrante’s saga, featuring Europa publisher Michael Reynolds, translator Ann Goldstein, author Lauren Groff, and Guernica publisher Lisa Lucas.
Dark Friendships. ‘Frenemies’ is the popular phrase to convey a mild rivalry amongst friends, but what do you call it when something even deeper is going on? Join Steve Toltz (Quicksand), Sloane Crosley (The Clasp), and Alexandra Kleeman (You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine) as they discuss how their characters’ friendships morph, how allegiances change, and the sometimes hilarious and sometimes toxic results of being honest. Moderated by Steph Opitz, Marie Claire books reviewer.
And that’s not everything . . . There are a ton of events I could’ve mentioned here (but I have other things to work on). Check out the full list here.
To celebrate the Brooklyn Book Festival (which is taking place this weekend), PEN is hosting a Literary Pub Quiz tomorrow at St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn, from 7 to 9.
PEN American Center is pleased to announce the return of our popular Literary Pub Quiz! This Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event gives you the chance to compete with (and against!) editors and writers from your favorite literary magazines, including Cabinet, Gigantic, Harper’s, and Electric Literature, as well as writers Matthea Harvey, Ben Greenman, and many more. Come early to reserve your spot on the team with the writer-captain who also knows where Hemingway was born. We’ll supply the paper and the pencils; you bring the literary smarts!
Team captains include Gabe Boylan of Harper’s, George Prochnik of Cabinet Magazine, James Yeh of Gigantic Magazine, Scott Lindenbaum and Andy Hunter of Electric Literature, translator Susan Bernofsky, Ben Greenman, Matthea Harvey, Amy Sohn, and more; hosted by Katie Halper.
This is free, open to the public, and should be a lot of fun . . .
The Brooklyn Book Festival took place this past Saturday, and as always, I wish I could’ve been there. I was able to attend a few years back, and was really impressed by how many people were out browsing the stands, attending panels and readings, and generally getting excited about books. And from what I’ve heard the festival has grown every year since.
As covered in The Mantle, this year’s BKBF included a “Reading the World” panel featuring some of my favorite publishers and translators including Karen Emmerich, Susan Bernofsky, Ugly Duckling, and Zephyr. Here’s a clip from Shaun Randol’s write-up:
Great stuff all around, an excellently curated panel. Every single one of the works presented is worth purchasing (skip the library and give these people some money!). (Note to participants: correct me if you see a mistake! There were no Cliffs Notes for what we were listening to on stage.) Karen Emmerich (representing Team Archipelago) read the poetry and prose from the Greek writer Miltos Sachtouris, skipping us across Aegean waters from Greek isles to ancient Greece. And then . . . Ms. Emmerich read an outstanding piece of poetry on the life of plant, by the poet/author Helenē Vakalo. The Mantle audience pleads for an answer—what is this poem and where can we find it? This vegetative poetic genius!?!? Ms. Emmerich, if you are reading this, please put the information in the comments section below!
Next up, Susan Bernofksy (Team New Directions), reading from German author Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation. I have nothing written down in my notebook here. This is what happens when the story is too absorbing—you neglect your reporter duties. A complete blank because my eyes were closed and I just listened to the pitter-patter of her voice as she conveyed one of a dozen stories taking place in a single house over generations in what must be an exceptionally intricate novel penned by Erpenbeck. The house is/was real (it belonged to Erpenbeck’s family), so how much of the story is as well? Ahhhh . . . German intrigue . . .
Sounds like a fun panel—one of many that took place. Ah well. Next year . . . There’s always next year . . .
Aside from bringing some attention to this fair/panel, it’s worth spending some time looking around The Mantle. Embarrassed to say that this is the first time I’ve come across the site, which is dedicated to providing “a forum for the next generation of leaders to be heard—a space for opinions that are different from those found in traditional, established outlets.” It’s an interesting publication, with a very international focus, and an intriguing book review section. Definitely worth checking out.
He claims his mouth is open because he’s pitching a book, which is proof that he works when he goes to NYC. Should we believe him?
The Brooklyn Book Festival is on Sunday, and has a host of interesting events scheduled. (I’d include the link, but the website doesn’t allow it.)
One that I’m definitely going to attend is “Brooklyn Bridges to Europe,” 3pm on Sunday at St. Francis College (180 Remsen St.):
Brooklyn authors Jonathan Lethem and Jonathan Safran Foer, in conversation with their French and German publishers, explore the appeal of their work to European audiences. Presented with The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the French-American Foundation and the German Book Office in New York. Moderated by literary critic Liesl Schillinger.
This is part of the “Editors Exchange Program in New York” that the German Book Office, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and French-American Foundation are putting on.
In addition to the BBF event, there’s a panel on “Promoting Literature in Translation Online” Monday at 11am and an “Editors’ ‘Buzz’ Panel” on Monday at 5. Both of these events will take place at the Deutsches Haus NYU (42 Washington Mews, off University Place).
Both events should be pretty interesting. I’ll be on the Translations Online panel with people from Words Without Borders, In Translation, PEN America, and elsewhere, and the Buzz panel will give editors from L’Olivier, Editions Allia, Harcourt, DuMont, Wylie Agency (?!), P.O.L., Houghton-Mifflin, and Tropen Verlag a chance to discuss their latest publications or books in progress.
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .