The Brooklyn Book Festival is this Sunday, and like the run-up to the presidential election, it only seems to get bigger every time it comes around. We’ve sifted through the day’s events (all eighty-plus of them) to choose our favorites. If you can only make it to one panel, it should be Bookforum editor Michael Miller talking to LRB editor Christian Lorentzen and novelists Elissa Schappell and Clancy Martin about money in fiction. A full list of events is available here, and our staff picks are below.
10:00 A.M. The London Review of Books presents The Novel and the City.
A conversation about literature and the urban imagination with Mexican novelist Alvaro Enrigue and cultural writer Christine Smallwood. Moderated by Adam Shatz, London Review of Books.
11:00 A.M. Ice or Salt: The Personal in Fiction.
W.B. Yeats once wrote, “All that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt.” Authors Siri Hustvedt (Living, Thinking, Looking), Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård (My Struggle) and Sheila Heti (How Should a Person Be?) will consider how writing technique—“ice or salt”—transforms the personal into art that connects to a broad audience. Moderated by Phillip Lopate.
12:00 P.M. Rewriting History.
Jamie Manrique (Cervantes Street), Esmeralda Santiago (Conquistadora), and Ellis Avery (The Last Nude) read and discuss their historical novels, filled with vivid characters ranging from Avery’s Parisian lovers and Santiago’s nineteenth-century love triangle to Manrique’s fictional account of the life of Miguel de Cervantes. Moderated by editor and poet Albert Mobilio.
12:00 P.M. Who? New!
The Brooklyn Book Festival picks five of the year’s most impressive debut novelists: Ayad Akhtar (American Dervish), Kathleen Alcott (The Danger of Proximal Alphabets), Catherine Chung (Forgotten Country), Bill Peters (Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality), and Laurie Weeks (Zipper Mouth). Moderated by Anthony W. Crowell, board chair of the Brooklyn Public Library.
12:00 P.M. The Politics of Identity—Do They Still Matter?
As America grows more diverse, “minorities” will soon be the majority and this shift in demographics will affect our culture and the ways we think about it. Can—and should—we move beyond the idea of race in America? Baratunde Thurston (How to Be Black), Rebecca Walker (Black Cool) and Wesley Yang (author of the New York magazine article “Paper Tigers,” and a forthcoming book on Asians in America) will interrogate the stereotypes we still have of each other, both positive and negative, and examine the ways we run from and cling to various aspects of identity, race, and heritage. Moderated by Amitava Kumar.
1:00 P.M. From the Ruins of Empire.
Leading Indian writers Pankaj Mishra (From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia) and Siddhartha Deb (The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India) read from their books and discuss the modern world and the East, and the movements and personalities that helped shape both. Moderated by Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review.
1:00 P.M. The Nation Presents the Twilight of the Elites.
Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another—from Wall Street to Congress, from the Catholic Church to Major League Baseball—imploded under the weight of corruption. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions. How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. A conversation with MSNBC host Chris Hayes and author Michelle Goldberg, moderated by Richard Kim.
2:00 P.M. Bookforum Presents Money in Fiction.
Gatsby's millions; Darcy’s £1,000 a year: wealth was once a major concern of fiction. Given the stark contrasts of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, how do novelists grapple with the topic of money in the 21st century? Christian Lorentzen, Elissa Schappell (Blue Print), and Clancy Martin (How to Sell) discuss. Moderated by Michael Miller, Bookforum.
4:00 P.M. Creative Life in NYC - Art, Music and Creative Culture in the 70’s 80’s and Beyond.
James Wolcott (Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York), Nile Rodgers (Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny) and Cynthia Carr (Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz) discuss art, music, and creativity in NYC through the decades. Moderated by Will Hermes (Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever).
4:00 P.M. On Truth (and Lies) in Conversation.
Co-Presented by BAM and the Onassis Cultural Center NY. What is the truth? Simon Critchley, one of today’s leading contemporary philosophers turns the tables on Paul Holdengräber, the director/founder of LIVE from the NYPL, to examine the art of conversation, digression, and sustained dialogue. Holdengräber—an expert in what he calls “cognitive theater” and a seasoned interviewer of major cultural and political figures, from Jay-Z to Zadie Smith and Patti Smith to Slavoj Zizek—joins Critchley to discuss how truth emerges from conversation.
5:00 P.M. The Poet Novelist.
Poets and novelists Ben Lerner (Leaving the Atocha Station), Eileen Myles (Inferno: A Poet’s Novel), and Sapphire (The Kid) explore the boundaries, possibilities, divergences and intersections of poetry and prose. Moderated by Camille Rankine, Manhattanville College.
5:00 P.M. Marriage and Monogamy
With marriage equality on everyone’s lips, it still seems valid to ask the question, “Why marriage?” and “Why monogamy?” Our authors weigh monogamy, marriage, its alternatives, and what it all means for how we live today. Syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage (The Commitment) has advocated “monogam-ish” relationships; anthropologist Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. (Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality), argues that monogamy isn't inherent to humans; Kristin Davis (The Manhattan Madam’s Guide to Sex), aka “The Manhattan Madam,” will provide her insights into the tangled web of sex and commitment; and Eric Klinenberg (Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone) examine what these changing attitudes look like at a societal level. Moderated by Kate Bolick (upcoming Among the Suitors: Single Women I Have Loved).
5:00 P.M. The Fragility of Electability: Campaigns, Character and Messing with Texas.
A conversation with Gail Collins (As Texas Goes . . . How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda), Jodi Kantor (The Obamas) and John MacArthur (The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America, or, Why A Progressive Presidency Is Impossible). Moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
5:00 P.M. Enduring Unlikable Women.
Elissa Schappell (Blue Print), Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and Dana Spiotta (Stone Arabia) write difficult, complex female characters. Join these authors in a reading and discussion that looks at the bad boy and the unlikable woman in literature and how they are reviled or celebrated by their audience and creators. Moderated by Meredith Walters, Brooklyn Public Library.
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New Yorkers: If you're not already enrolled in an institution of higher learning (or even if you are) we encourage you to check out the course listings on offer from the Brooklyn Institute. The Institute was started in 2011 as a way of taking liberal arts courses out of the classroom—many of their seminars are conducted in the back room of a Boerum Hill restaurant—and span subjects from Spinoza to Freud to realism in literature. This Fall, they're offering classes on the history, theory, and literature of zombies ("'Zombi' and the Politics of Representation"), a survey on the role of the female body across politics, history, and literature ("Writing on the Body"), and another on Kafka, Benjamin, and Max Brod. Podcasts and videos of previous classes are available on their website.
Two weeks ago, Philip Roth took Wikipedia to task in an open letter on the New Yorker’s website for not letting him correct an error in a entry about one of his novels. The alleged error was about the inspiration for The Human Stain, which Roth claims—contrary to Wikipedia—was not based on editor Anatole Broyard. But in another open letter posted on Facebook, Broyard’s daughter responded to Roth, noting that “there was a legitimate reason that many reviewers of the book and movie drew the comparison to my dad’s life.” She added, “I don’t think it’s reasonable that Roth gets to dictate what conclusions other people draw about his characters, which is effectively what he was trying to do with his objection to Wikipedia’s description of the book as ‘allegedly’ having been inspired by my dad.”
Monica Lewinsky has reportedly landed a $12 million deal for her forthcoming tell-all about her affair with Bill Clinton. The book is supposed to contain three things that an earlier book about the scandal didn’t: “more salacious details about Lewinsky and Clinton, ostensible complaints by Clinton about his wife,” and previously unpublished love letters from Lewinsky to Clinton. As if all that weren’t gross enough, Slate points out that Lewinsky is getting only $3 million less than Bill Clinton was paid for his memoir.
New York Times Book Review editor, Bookforum contributor, and critic extraordinaire Parul Seghal reflects on her life in reading.
Neil Young has quit drugs and alcohol to finish his forthcoming memoir, Waging Heavy Peace.
Meanwhile, at Tablet, Bookforum contributor Daphne Merkin remember how high holidays and Manishewitz wine first taught her how to drink.
“Today I visited the cenotaph to Baudelaire, who sleeps at the center of Paris—in the shade of maples, ash, laurels, and conifers—at the Montparnasse Cemetery. I think I would like to be more Baudelairean, which is to say unafraid of the grim.” Poet Henri Cole keeps a diary for the New Yorker.