Who knows where he got his facts from when Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz claimed that “most Pulitzer winners, great writers and magazine editors live in Brooklyn,” but it certainly seemed that way yesterday as the literati converged at Borough Hall for the eighth annual Brooklyn Book Festival.
Held over six locations in Downtown Brooklyn, the festival allowed fans to meet literary stars like Art Spiegelman, Lois Lowry and Meg Cabot. Lesser-known and aspiring authors also got the chance to meet with publishers, with one Brooklynite and aspiring poet calling it “a great place to schmooze.”
A panel of publishing heavies, including Janet Groth (who last year published a memoir about her years at the New Yorker), Boris Kachka of New York magazine (who recently published Hothouse, a history of venerable publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Richard Nash discussed the future of publishing in the brave new world of e-books and the democratization of the industry because of the internet.
“Publishers used to be the bouncers, but we have to learn to be the DJs,” said Nash, founder of the independent publishing house Soft Skull Press. “We’re not gatekeepers anymore, and should be focused on finding and creating a funky mix of talent.”
In a panel entitled “Sin City,” Ivy Pochoda talked about gentrification in her neighborhood of Red Hook, which plays a prominent role in her latest novel, Visitation Street. “I grew up in Cobble Hill but I was abroad for many years, and when I returned, the neighborhood had completely changed,” she said. “But Red Hook today is still the way it used to be, and is more mixed racially and socio-economically.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonists Art Spiegelman and Jules Feiffer spoke about their works and inspiration to a packed auditorium, and were mobbed by fans soon after.
Spiegelman discussed the challenges of being a cartoonist and comic book writer, which are still seen as less legitimate forms of literature. “The cartoonist’s curse lies in doing two things well,” he said, meaning writing and drawing.
Feiffer, who won his Pulitzer for his editorial cartooning in the Village Voice, talked about political cartoons and their place in the public discourse. “During the McCarthy times, liberals couldn’t say what they thought for fear of being labeled communist,” he said. “Through my cartoons, I was giving a voice to those couldn’t speak, and found my own voice in the process.”
Click through the photos above and stay tuned to B+B: we’ll have another report from the book festival later today.