Novelist and Brooklyn Native Ben Schrank Talks About How the Borough Has Changed—Or Not!

01/16/2013 11:35 AM |

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  • Lauren Mechling

Sarah Crichton Books published last week Ben Schrank’s third novel, Love is a Canoe, about a writer of relationship advice looking back over his work after the death of his wife. Schrank, who is the publisher of Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, lives in Brooklyn—where he grew up—with his wife and son.

What neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Gowanus, on Carroll Street, up from Monte’s, around the corner from Littleneck. I love Gowanus, but not a day goes by that I don’t wish it wouldn’t go the way of Fourth Avenue.

Is that where you grew up?
I grew up on President Street in Park Slope. I went away to college, did a decade in Manhattan, and now Gowanus feels awfully close to coming home to Park Slope to me. But I always say I live in Gowanus. Five years ago nobody knew where I was talking about. Now everybody does.

As a native and a writer, how do you feel about the transformation of Brooklyn, especially its recent reputation as a literary capital?
I’m happy for Brooklyn, but it doesn’t feel like a transformation to me. More like a decades-long evolution followed by a stampede. We are somewhere in the third stage now and I’m not sure what to call it.

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
In the New York Times Book Review, Dean Bakopoulos said:

Despite a softly cynical underside, Love Is a Canoe is an affirmation that secrets, fantasies and wrong turns are part of both publishing careers and love. Schrank has done something here that may sound impossible: He’s written a funny novel about publishing that is not caustic but optimistic, not biting but bighearted—a story about the delusions with which self-aware, smart people are all too willing to live in order to avoid the painful (yet entertaining) upheaval that comes with truth.

If so many writers hadn’t already gotten tattoos and T-shirts made of their favorite reviews, I’d do both with the above.

What have you read (or seen or heard or tasted or etc.) recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
At risk of being a neighborhood booster: I had warm chocolate croissant at Runner & Stone on Third Avenue on Sunday morning that was the best I’ve ever had. I am very excited about the Root Hill Burger Place on Fourth Avenue. And, in a departure from Brooklyn, I love Jim Gavin’s upcoming debut short story collection, Middle Men, which takes place mostly in Los Angeles.