09/24/13 3:26pm
09/24/2013 3:26 PM |


At last Sunday’s Brooklyn Book Festival, Elon Green asked many established writers who their favorite young writers are and then wrote it up for The Awl. And so who are some of the young literary lights that the older generation of writers (like Nicholson Baker, Lois Lowry, and Pete Hamill) admire? Well, hmm. There really aren’t that many! Not unless you consider thirty-five young. Which, we don’t! And we don’t mean that in a bad way, because we are very conscious of how rapidly we are aging. Like, far too rapidly. We too will someday be 35. Scary. But better than the alternative.


Anyway, Green posed the question, “What youngsters are you fabulous writers reading?” and quickly found out that most of these fabulous writers aren’t reading anyone younger than Zadie Smith or Rachel Kushner or Sheila Heti, who are amazing, yes, but who are all well over the age of 35, which is not exactly wunderkind territory. There was one notable exception in Green’s round-up, because author Claire Messud seems to have her finger a bit closer to the pulse of young American writers, and was able to name several young authors whose work she admires (Bill Cheng, Scott Cheshire, Philip Klay, Taiye Selasi) who are all under 35, though not under 30. Which, that’s fine! All of the writers mentioned—whether older or younger than 35—are doing exciting work which is definitely worth a look from anyone who is interested in the state of contemporary literature (which, that’s all of us, right? right!). And who says 35 qualifies as “old” anyway? Am I just being an ageist jerk?

No! I can honestly say this is one case where I am not being a jerk, ageist or otherwise. I don’t think it matters at all whether an author’s debut novel comes out when the author is 24 or 40. But I do think it’s interesting that there aren’t any lit-world wunderkind right now, while a decade or so ago, it seemed like you couldn’t open the New York Times (Book Review if it was a man, Styles section if it was a woman or particularly handsome man) without reading about some sparkling, young literary light who was about to take the world by storm. But now? Nothing. Where are this decade’s Jonathan Safran Foers and Zadie Smiths? Are they all hidden away in MFA programs and so aren’t unleashed upon the world until they’re much older? Or is it just the case that those big flashy book deals aren’t the norm in the tumultuous current state of publishing?

It’s probably both of those things, and many other factors, including the reality that writing a novel takes a lot of time. And what is time? Money. And with the economic reality being what it is (which, shit—it is shit) it’s harder for people in their twenties to dedicate themselves to writing a novel that might not sell for very much money anyway. Better to channel literary aspirations in other ways, more lucrative ways. And so, no, there aren’t very many “young” writers who you know about in the way that you knew about Zadie Smith, but that’s ok. Because, frankly, very few 25-year-olds can write like Zadie Smith. But that doesn’t mean established writers shouldn’t be able to name a few people from the younger generation. And so, I never thought I’d say this, but: Shame on you, Lois Lowry! Shame on you.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

09/24/13 1:10pm


  • Image via Gizmorati

Solid proof that the end of Stop and Frisk has not, in fact, immediately sent New York spiraling into a new era of 1970’s-style violent crime and decay: the NYPD is focusing considerable time and effort keeping an eye out for everyone’s iPhones.


Which they’ve already been doing for a while with their “Don’t play dumb with your smartphone” campaigns, but now that iOS7 (and its major new security update) has hit the market they’ve been ramping up efforts, passing out fliers outside Apple and Best Buy that read, “By downloading the new operating system, should your device get lost or stolen, it cannot be reprogrammed without an Apple ID or password.”

This is all in reference to the new Activation Lock feature, which it makes it impossible to disable, say, the “Find My iPhone” app without the owner’s Apple ID and password. The police department also wants people to register their smartphones with the Community Affairs Bureau (and to continue not stupidly waving your expensive phone around in public), all in hopes of ending what they’re calling a “global epidemic of smartphone theft.”

“The widespread use of this new system will end the victimization of iPhone users, as thieves learn that the devices have no value on the secondary market,” State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco DA George Gascón said in a joint statement about Apple’s new security features.

All of which seems good, even if “global epidemic” is maybe a bit of a strong term for a problem a highly limited, privileged subset of the earth’s population will actually find themselves facing down. Still, if this is what New York cops are getting truly worried about in 2013, we’re probably doing pretty well for ourselves.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/24/13 12:58pm


So nostalgia is pretty much everywhere these days. And maybe it’s been like that forever? Maybe there have always been really public displays of sentimentality and maybe people have always been incredibly navel-gazey about their own experiences in a certain place at a certain time? Ha. There’s no maybe about it. Of course nostalgia has always been here. But there’s a certain type of nostalgic recollection that’s been making the Internet rounds lately, and while at first glance it seems familiar—it’s nostalgia for the New York that used to be, which, yeah, everyone’s done something like that—it’s actually interesting because it’s nostalgia for the New York of just a few years ago, the New York of 2007 to be exact. Yeah, that’s right, 2007…before anyone had ever heard of Brooklyn, back when Bloomberg was only in his second term, that long ago time when Pianos was only sort of over, not really, really over. 2007, man. What a year.


So, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m old and have lived in New York since before 2007, but this article from Brokelyn (“While Brooklyn Booms I’m Going Down With the Manhattan Ship”) really drove me crazy. This essay, by a self-proclaimed “Chelsea girl,” is sort of about how the author refuses to move to Brooklyn, because when she came to New York in 2007, with visions of the cast of Rent (she doesn’t say it, but I’m assuming she means the Roasario Dawson movie) dancing in her head, everything cool in New York—like Magnolia Bakery and Central Park—was in Manhattan. But fast forward six years later, and all the cool places (like Roberta’s) are in Brooklyn! And so she asks, “What is a poor Chelsea girl to do?” How can she leave Manhattan? How can she leave the island where she got her belly button pierced? How can she leave the borough where she knows all the best bikini waxers? How can she have a zip code that starts with “11” instead of “10”? Why is life so hard in 2013, when it was so easy and perfect in the golden days of 2007? WHY?

Well, first off, it’s kind of telling that this writer uses zip codes instead of area codes as the signifier of a true Manhattanite. She’s probably never even met anyone with a 212. But also, this essay feels so off because even the things she references as being cool New York things, were kind of on their way out totally uncool by 2007 anyway. I mean, Rent? I’m going to date myself here, but well, I had friends who stood for hours on line for $20 tickets way back in 1997. 2007 was way past its heyday. After all, Rent closed on Broadway in 2008 after a ten year run, during which time it had become an institution, sure, but it wasn’t exactly cool anymore. She might as well have referenced The Lion King as a play that inspired her. And Magnolia Bakery? Sex and the City ended in 2004! Sure, tourists still haven’t gotten the memo that Magnolia’s cupcakes aren’t that good (the banana pudding on the other hand, christ, yes), but by 2007, everyone in New York pretty much knew to avoid that corner of Bleecker. But I mean, ok. So this woman is more than happy with her fire escape view of New Jersey and thinks that everyone who lives in Brooklyn is jealous of it. Which, fine. I’m cool with that, I’m just confused as to how anyone is so obtuse as to believe that 2007 was the heyday of Manhattan, or New York in general.

In contrast to the Brokelyn post, there was another personal essay about New York that also revolved around the year 2007. Which, god. Now I’m trying desperately to remember what the hell I was doing in 2007. I barely remember it at all. 2008 on the other hand, now that was a fucking year. Man, I was into that year. Anyway! In a piece titled, “Priced Out of New York,” Cari Luna writes about making the difficult decision to leave the city of her birth (though, naturally, she was raised in New Jersey) because she and her husband realized in 2007, looking around at their Brooklyn environs that “in Park Slope, parents had camped out overnight to secure spots for their children in the pre-K program they were zoned for. The schools in our Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Garden were failing. We heard gunshots every night. (Shouldn’t failing schools and gunshots come with affordable housing, like in the old days?) What exactly were we struggling to hold on to?” So, basically—and in what would be a huge surprise to the Brokelyn writer—while Manhattan was just getting started back in 2007, Brooklyn was already over. I’m so confused! What is going on exactly? And if Brooklyn was that bad in 2007, with shootings and failing schools and overwhelmed Pre-K classes, then how can anyone possibly live here now? Is all of New York just dead and over? Except maybe Staten Island which I’m still not convinced is even a real place at all?

Short answer, no. 2007 was just a year. Maybe it was a significant year to both of these writers because, for one, it was the year she came to New York, and for the other, it was the year that she left. And, yes, actually 2007 was kind of a significant year in that it was the year before the huge-ass recession that we have all been struggling through ever since. But it also wasn’t particularly special in that it was just another year in the ever-shifting, dynamic city that is New York, where what is deemed “over” by some people, will still seem fresh to so many more. New York wasn’t any better or worse in 2007, or in 2004, or in 2010. It was just different. It’s always been difficult and thrilling to live here for myriad reasons, and so it’s easy to sentimentalize the past. But it’s wrong and weird to sentimentalize the really recent past, because there’s no real perspective, and only room for navel-gazing. Besides, everyone knows that the real best year in New York City was 1998. Oh, man, was 1998 ever good. That was the year Sex and the City started, so you know it was legit cool. In conclusion, let’s never talk about 2007 again? Ok? Ok. Thanks.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

09/24/13 12:30pm

Williamsburg skyline Brooklyn waterfront

“As long as people want to live in good neighborhoods and pay cheap rents, and as long as there are artists and gays and bohemians, and as long as we keep producing young people who crave newness and a place of their own, gentrification will continue,” Gothamist publisher Jake Dobkin wrote yesterday. “Our neighborhoods will continue to be reshaped.” He’s right to a certain extent: the city is an ever-changing place, and the first artists who crossed the East River to take up studio-residences in Williamsburg were attracted by the same thing that has attracted people to Brooklyn for decades: cheap rent. (The opening to Sophie’s Choice: “In those days cheap apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn. This was in 1947…”) But the full story of Williamsburg’s transformation from what it was in the 70s to what it is today isn’t one of the natural ebb and flow of populations, of unpredictable municipal vicissitudes. It’s of direct government intervention to redraw and recolor communities like Williamsburg. The data back me up.


In 2005, Bloomberg pushed through his rezoning proposal for the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfronts, which is how we got the high-rise apartment towers along Kent Avenue: Northside Piers, The Edge, the upcoming Domino redevelopment. And though they came with token affordable-housing requirements, they also brought thousands of new, well-off residents with them—those who can afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a one-bedroom—transforming the neighborhood in a way an influx of artsy college types never could have. The reason the neighborhood feels like Manhattan now is because it was deliberately re-created to attract the same sorts of people attracted to Manhattan.

According to the census, in 1980, the median household income was $21,195. (All numbers have been adjusted for inflation to 2009 dollars.) In 1990, it had risen 28 percent to $27,292. In 2000, it had risen another 7.5 percent to $29,361. Between 2005 and 2009, the average median household income was $51,736, a jump of 76 percent! This wasn’t the story in the city as a whole: the median income in 2000 was $47,707; from 2005-2009, the median averaged $50,173, an increase of 5.1 percent. In less than a decade, a single zip code went from far below the city’s median income level to above it.

That this time span overlaps the rezoning isn’t coincidental. The change results from 12 years of Bloomberg conspiring with real estate developers to push the poor out of the city or at least to its margins while welcoming in every billionaire in the world. I’m a native Brooklynite frustrated by the increasing unaffordability of my hometown. But I don’t turn to the nearest person walking down the street and hate them for living here, just like you don’t blame terrorism on the nearest Muslim or unemployment on the nearest Latino. If you want to be angry at someone for making it a struggle to live here, hate the landlords, the developers, and the rest of the money people on their way to the bank with your cash. As Michel de Montaigne put it: “one man’s profit is another’s loss.”

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

09/23/13 11:40am
09/23/2013 11:40 AM |


  • Image via Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Where some failed mayoral candidates give thoughtful exit interviews and have a chill couple of glasses of wine with reporters, others vent their frustration on small children. Guess which one Anthony Weiner has been up to!


Well, obviously the latter. Which feels OK to talk about for a minute now that he’s not seriously threatening the tone of a crucial political moment for the city. So, per the Post, Weiner took his young son to the Union Square Park playground this weekend, and things didn’t go especially well. Reportedly, after another kid at the park accidentally peed on one of the swings, a “spy” told the Post that “Weiner was heard screaming, ‘Thanks for leaving this thing soaking wet.'”

This didn’t sit well with the kid’s dad (who had been grabbing napkins to clean up the mess), and he then told Weiner, “It’s funny you’re the one talking about other people’s self-control.” And it is! If a little sad for whatever small child had to be further embarrassed about peeing in public, already one of the worst, most humiliating things that can happen in the life of a kid. But then, at least Weiner’s finally found a place where he can be among his peers.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/23/13 11:35am


Yesterday’s Brooklyn Book Festival took place on what was arguably definitely the most beautiful day of the year; the bright blue sky and cool early autumn air surely contributed to the lively atmosphere that permeated downtown Brooklyn, as thousands of lit-lovers roamed the area around Borough Hall, buying books, attending readings and dropping into the many panel discussions on offer. And while this year’s event was sadly Tony Danza-less (Danza was a real shining light last year), it was full of many other Brooklyn lit luminaries. In fact (and I’m sure this gets said every year) this might just have been the best Book Fest yet. With writers like Lois Lowry, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Ames, Pete Hamill, Tao Lin, Dana Spiotta, Chang-Rae Lee, Teddy Wayne, Colum McCann, Adelle Waldman (and so many, many more) in attendance, there was really something for everyone. But, of course, not everyone could be there, so we’ve put together a little round-up on the things we saw at this year’s Book Fest. Enjoy, and, you know, bask in the literary afterglow. Ew. I know. Gross.

09/23/13 10:17am


  • Image via NYC Bike Maps

On the off-chance the city hasn’t yet added in bike lanes exactly where you want them, just painting some in yourself seems to work pretty well. At least, that’s the takeaway from this Times write-up of Right of Way, a group responsible for spray painting in new bike lanes in midtown over the weekend, extending lanes on Avenue of the Americas from their endpoint at 42nd street all the way up to Central Park.


“We’re doing something for the public good,” one of the group’s founders told the paper. “So I think it’s O.K., even if it’s illegal.” And other than a lone driver who took took the time on Saturday night to yell at the group (“You know what you’re doing is wrong.” Burn!), no one really seems all that bothered by the lanes, which were partly inspired by the incident in the area last month in which a taxi veered onto the sidewalk during a dispute with a cyclist, severing the leg of a tourist.

As of Sunday afternoon, the lanes were still in place, and were being used by some cyclists, and flagrantly ignored by some drivers. Just like the official ones.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/20/13 1:35pm
09/20/2013 1:35 PM |

Nice bow tie.

  • Nice bow tie.

In case you thought that Bloomberg’s comments in that New York magazine interview a little while ago were anomalous, think again. Just to recap, Bloomberg asked interviewer Chris Smith, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?” At which point everyone in the city who is not a billionaire felt a sudden chill, as if a pair of ghosts had tweaked their nipples or something similarly as perverse and inappropriate as wanting all the Russian billionaires to move to New York. It was terrible. But, maybe Bloomberg was speaking hyperbolically? Maybe he didn’t really mean it? Maybe he does want to preserve some of this city’s integrity and diversity?


Haha. No. Not at all! Bloomberg said in his weekly radio show this morning that “if we could get every billionaire around the world to move here, it would be a Godsend.” A Godsend! Bloomberg, who was talking about the recently released census results which revealed that New York City has the highest income gap in the country, said that he doesn’t think that the extreme wealth disparity here is such a bad thing. He commented, ““While there are still people at the bottom struggling, we’ve made a lot of progress, the problem in the income gap is not at that end. The reason it’s so big is at that higher end we’ve been able to do something that none of these other cities can do. And that is attract a lot of the very wealthy from around the country and around the world.”

Yeah. That’s what we do well here in good old New York, attract billionaires from all over the world by pushing the middle-class and lower-class residents out of their neighborhoods and making Manhattan a playground for foreign investors and getting rid of the character that used to define New York. Not to be all nostalgic for times long gone, but it used to be a selling point that New York attracted creative types. Now it’s a selling point that it attracts foreign billionaires. That’s the Bloomberg legacy, I guess.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

09/20/13 10:24am

Ah, autumn romance.

  • Ah, autumn romance.

You know what’s a really nice thing about fall? Besides artificial pumpkin flavor and bulk halloween candy (like these Cadbury “Screme” Eggs, which apparently now exist)? Going on a date and not having to worry that you’re sweating through your shirt, or getting all weird and puffy from mosquito bites. If for that reason alone, autumn is genuinely underrated as a really good time of the year for dating.


And even if it weren’t, what, were you just gonna hole up, depressed and alone, only looking for love and fulfillment from May through August? Oof. No need. There are a lot of great ways to date in Brooklyn this time of year, whether your thing is whiskey, Al Pacino, tarot card readings, or all of the above.