In Person

December 14, 2009

Jonathan Franzen, Honesty and the Lines of Literature 7


In Tübingen, Jonathan Franzen talked candidly and casually about his struggles as a writer. En route, though, he made a stealthy attempt to re-frame literature so that he and his project occupied its absolute center.

September 15, 2009

Fear, Imagination, and “Making Things Peculiar” at the Brooklyn Book Festival 3


“Gogol was a strange creature, but genius is always strange; it is only your healthy second-rater who seems to the grateful reader to be a wise old friend, nicely developing the reader’s notions of life.”

July 24, 2009

Torch Ballads & Jukebox Music #4: Serenaded by Jonathan Richman 2


Jonathan Richman, along with his long-time drummer Tommy Larkins, took the stage, strummed his acoustic guitar and began to sing. Nothing. The mikes weren’t working. Where other performers, and indeed lesser legends, might have turned diva, Jonathan simply announced – loudly, to make up for the microphone – that he and the techies would confer […]

July 22, 2009

Notes From The Fringe 2


When I first began living in Toronto, I used to book off the week of the Film Festival. In those days it seemed much less schmoozy, more communal and low-key. Going from cinema to cinema, seeing multiple films each day, chatting with fellow movie buffs while waiting in lines. It was a treat. But I […]

June 11, 2009

Toronto’s Tell-Tale Heart 0


In the darkened Anglican church, separated from a looming early-Victorian tower by an idyllic garden, we summoned the spirits and welcomed the macabre into our tell-tale hearts. Nestled at the bottom of Grange Park, the city’s bustle was a two-minute walk away, but it could have been two-hundred years away as the Luminato arts festival […]

May 8, 2009

PEN World Voices Report: The Neo-Keynsian Smackdown 1


The Met Museum’s Rogers Auditorium last Thursday night resembled one of Rush Limbaugh’s paranoid fantasies come to life; if a bomb had gone off, much of the braintrust of American liberalism would have been wiped out. To explore “The Economic Crisis and How to Deal With It,” The New York Review of Books had convened […]

May 7, 2009

PEN World Voices Report: The Strange Beauty of Andrey Platonov 0


It was raining last Thursday (because it is always raining in New York) when I went to the CUNY Graduate Center to hear a panel called “Language in New Forms: The Work of Andrey Platonov.” I’m glad I braved the weather, however. The panel featured four of the most mellifluous voices in Anglo-American letters – […]

April 2, 2009

Highlights from the PEN World Voices Schedule 0


Readings and panel discussions generally serve as excuses to go see our favorite writers in person. By contrast, the great virtue of the PEN World Voices Festival is the range of discoveries it affords. Now in its fifth year, the festival brings writers from all over the globe to Manhattan for a series of mostly […]

March 11, 2009

Context is everything: Lit City in Toronto 3


Millions readers in the Toronto area should check out the Lit City exhibit at the Market Gallery (second floor of the St. Lawrence Market, on now through the spring, free). As part of the ongoing festivities marking Toronto’s 175th birthday, the Market Gallery, occupying a room that served as council chambers in the mid-late 1800s, […]

November 25, 2008

The Immigrant Factor: Junot Díaz and Rawi Hage in conversation 0


Their personalities couldn’t be more different. Junot Díaz: casually amiable, chatty; Rawi Hage: quietly reflective, a bit reserved. Actually, not a bad double-act, as they seem to complement each other. And in addition to each desperately trying to catch his breath after a whirlwind year – Díaz fresh from countless accolades for his novel The […]