Brooklyn Bound: Writing Kings County

Mark your calendars for September 18th!

I’m thrilled to be hosting an interactive discussion on literature, identity, and geography at the Brooklyn Museum in a special WNYC Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event.

The event is called Brooklyn Bound: Writing Kings County and it centers around writers past and present who have taken inspiration from the expansive borough.

The evening will feature Evan Hughes, author of Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life), plus three emerging writers whose work focuses on three distinct Brooklyn neighborhoods. Yelena Akhtiorskaya‘s debut novel Panic in a Suitcase is set in the Brighton Beach of her immigrant childhood; Jason Reynolds writes about the pressures of life in Bed-Stuy in his young adult novel When I Was the Greatest; and Mark Chiusano (Marine Park: Stories) examines the far reaches of the borough in his new collection of stories.

See WNYC’s events page for details and tickets. I hope to see you there!

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Hot Reads: Lobster Kings, Gottland, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

This week’s Daily Beast Hot Reads feature lobstermen and meth dealers off the coast of Maine, a Swiss best-seller’s American debut, and the world’s largest statue of Stalin.  Check out my full reviews and stay tuned for more on The Lobster Kings, which is also a pick for The Takeaway Book Club later this summer.

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Takeaway Book Club Preview: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

ferrisHear me explain why the new Joshua Ferris novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, made me floss— and why it’s already divided The Takeaway team.  If you haven’t read it, now’s the perfect time to pick it up– just in time for The Takeaway Book Club’s discussion in a few weeks.

It’s got baseball, dentistry, online trolls, a made-up religion, and a protagonist who associates oral hygiene with moral seriousness.  What more can you ask for in a summer read?

Introducing The Takeaway Book Club

Excitingphoto things are happening with The Takeaway’s book coverage in the coming months.

We’ll be picking six book clubs from different parts of the country and bringing them on air to discuss a new novel.  Here I am describing what’s in store and talking about the books we’ll be reading.

And here is a picture of my books-based standing desk.  Let the record show that I am dismayed by the whole book-as-fashion-object trend— but I don’t have a lot of shelf space in my office (or a doctor’s note to get a real standing desk).

 

This Is Where: Poems about Places that Matter

For National Poetry Month, in April I produced a series of stories on The Takeaway highlighting poems submitted by listeners around the country. The project grew out of the #ThisIsWhere poetry contest WLRN and O Miami held this month for south Floridians; The Takeaway expanded the call for submissions to include listeners around the country, inviting listeners to send us their poems the places that really matter to them.

New Jersey listener Jane Byron described moving to Camden as a young single mom with a dream of revitalizing the city.   Worcester, Massachusetts resident Augustine Kanjia wrote about the love he discovered for the city that welcomed him in  after he fled war-torn Sierra Leone.   A poem from Cathy Wells of east Texas paid tribute to the family land her parents purchased, cleared, and settled together.  And in Miami, WLRN listener Eduardo Lis wrote about finding freedom and solace on North Beach as a new immigrant  with not much more than a Walgreen’s bathing suit to his name.  Hear their stories at: http://www.thetakeaway.org/series/thisiswhere/.

 

Kitty Genovese: How a Famous Murder Helped Create the 911 System

IMG_3075On a bracingly cold morning this March– exactly 50 years to the day after Kitty Genovese’s death– author Kevin Cook and I met on the block in Kew Gardens where Genovese spent her last living hours.

Cook’s new book, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime that Changed America looks back at Genovese’s life and death in detail. His investigation focuses in particular on what happened the night she died.  Spoiler alert: It’s a little more complicated than what you might’ve heard (or read in that intro psychology course, for that matter).

We also stopped in on some longtime residents of the neighborhood.  Carol and Murray Berger moved into a charming home in Kew Gardens in 1957, and have been a vital part of the community ever since.  They were kind enough to invite me in and to share their remembrances of how Genovese’s murder transformed the neighborhood’s reputation.

Take a listen to my piece for WNYC here.  Check out The New Yorker’s take on Cook’s book here.  And see some lovely photos of the Bergers’ home here.

 

Everyone’s A Critic

But not everyone gets profiled by their alumni magazine!  I was incredibly flattered to be interviewed by the brilliant Molly Minturn for the most recent issue of Virginia Magazine.  I’ve got some fantastic company, too– check out the profile of SNL’s Sasheer Zamata, reflections from bioethics professor John Arras (and others) and much more.

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Hot Reads: Blood Will Out, The Fishing Fleet, Rebel Music

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 12.30.56 AMA little bit of everything in this week’s all-star line-up– grifters, gold-diggers, and Kool and the Gang. As usual, full reviews at The Daily Beast.  Bonus: Hear Hisham Aidi talking about Rebel Music (and take a listen to some of the music he describes) over at The Takeaway.

Back to Back

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 11.02.54 PMI reviewed Julia Franck’s Back to Back for Words Without Borders.

German Book Prize-winning novelist Julia Franck’s most recent work, Back to Back, is an extremely difficult book to read. This is not an issue of translation, or a comment on Franck’s narrative powers. The prose of Anthea Bell’s translation is brisk, bold, and clear; in Bell’s hands, Franck’s story is engrossing—immediately, completely. But the neglect and deprivation, emotional and sexual abuse, and tragedy and despair visited upon Back to Back’s two young protagonists make the act of reading this masterful novel painful. For Thomas and Ella, siblings growing up in communist East Berlin in the 1950s, misery isn’t merely episodic, like bad weather or strep throat. The definitive experience of these characters is one of nearly constant anguish.

I’m still recovering.  The full review is up with the rest of the latest (beautiful) issue, which happens to showcase the international graphic novel.