In Person

November 10, 2008

Sarah Vowell’s Arcane Americana Road-Show 3


When Sarah Vowell comes to town, she brings with her the oddest bunch of Puritans you’ve ever met. Sometimes cruel, often endearing, highly literate (for a pre-Enlightenment society), occasionally confounding in their contradictions, the Puritans who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s come to life in Vowell’s latest historical slice of arcane Americana. […]

October 20, 2008

Speakers and the Spoken-To 0


A streetcar along the lake brings you to a low-rise white building where artists and artisans further their craft. It’s evening, somewhat deserted, but turn down one hallway and the tools of their trade remain in public view. Turn another corner and photographic art lines the walls. In a secluded room: a sea of café […]

October 16, 2008

Umberto Eco vs. Junot Díaz 1


This Guest post comes from Laurie Anderson. Laurie is a publicity assistant for a large Southern university. A Performance Comparison, Not a Literary Critique Umberto Eco gave three free lectures at Emory University in Atlanta October 5 through 7, and also did a reading and signing. All three lectures will be released in print form […]

October 14, 2008

Haruki Murakami in Berkeley 4


This past weekend, Haruki Murakami appeared at U.C. Berkeley’s Zellerbach Auditorium for a reading of his short stories and a wide-ranging conversation about his work and life. Despite my disappointment with his recent work, Murakami ranks as one of my favorite writers, and it was a pleasure to finally see the notoriously shy writer in […]

June 2, 2008

BEA: Dispatches from LA 5


All over Book Expo America, the country’s largest book industry trade show, were signs of the major trends in publishing and bookselling. Environmentalism was the order of the day, and everywhere I went there were signs of the industry “going green.” At the American Booksellers Association’s annual Day of Education, Ed Begley Jr. gave the […]

May 8, 2008

Scarification: Ondaatje in the Library 2


As I watch a crowd build for readings at the public library, it is always with some anxiety that I survey my strange companions – chess geeks there for Gary Kasparov, decomposing leftists to hear Lawrence Wright on Iraq – and worry about my place among them. Last Thursday, when Michael Ondaatje came to the […]

May 5, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: A Tribute to Robert Walser 0


After four World Voices events in as many days (scaled down from a perhaps overly ambitious six), I was about ready to hang up my spurs. Nonetheless, I dragged myself back into midtown’s London-style drizzle for Saturday afternoon’s “Tribute to Robert Walser” – and was glad I did. Twentieth century German-language literature produced some of […]

May 4, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: Something to Hide – Writers and Artists Against the Surveillance State 0


Among the core missions of International PEN is “the defense of writers and of freedom of expression around the world.” In the last two decades, as Salman Rushdie has been both its beneficiary and its champion, this mission has become increasingly visible. However, the artistic defense of freedom of expression is a tricky thing; political […]

May 3, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: The Art of Failure 0


Late Thursday night, after several PEN events and many drinks, a European friend and I succumbed to the temptation to make sweeping generalizations about the state of literature in America and abroad. Most of our aperçus wouldn’t withstand scrutiny in the sober light of morning, but I liked his epiphanic declaration that one of the […]

May 1, 2008

PEN World Voices Report: Public Lives/Private Lives 0


A crowd representing all ages, income brackets, and nationalities basking in the brilliant comedy of a Hungarian literary genius: isn’t this why one moves to the big city? Seduced by movies and periodicals (here Woody Allen and The New Yorker deserve much of the credit and/or blame), I came to New York a few years […]