09/20/13 10:00am
09/20/2013 10:00 AM |



Authors&#8212the good ones, anyway&#8212breathe life into their characters so they become three-dimensional beings who we see when we close our eyes and hear when we flip through the pages: real people who have mood swings, who overspend on things they want but don’t necessarily need. They watch too much TV. On good days, they finally get six hours of sleep. They listen to music as a means of coping with or intensifying feelings. This is key. Everyone’s life deserves a soundtrack. And so we chose 10 iconic fictional characters and gave them just that, while supplying you with accompanying Spotify playlists. Because you know Holden Caulfield isn’t going around listening to light jazz on his iPod these days.

09/20/13 10:00am


So you’re all going to the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday, right? Right! But so, have you seen the line-up of events? It’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming in the best possible way, but still. There’s a lot to choose from. And so we thought we’d help you by highlighting what we think are the must-see events at this year’s Book Fest. Beyond our recommended panels and readings, don’t forget to spend ample time wandering around, checking out all the booths where some of our favorite small publishers and lit magazines are set up. Last year, the good people from Electric Literature were giving away temporary tattoos that looked like psychedelic electrical outlets. It was pretty cool. We hope they do that again.


09/20/13 9:30am

Walt Whitman cocky pose

  • Original Hipster

I emailed a few poets I know and asked them what the poetry hotspots to know in Brooklyn were—and most of them told me they pretty much just read in Manhattan. Is our borough really so poetry negative? Not really: a bookstore devoted to the form will soon open in DUMBO, and in the meantime there are regular open mic nights from Williamsburg to Dyker Heights (most of which I heard about through Ricardo Hernandez, a regular on the circuit who impressively memorizes all of his poems). This is by no means exhaustive: there are always new ones popping up, one-offs and seasonal events, like a recent reading by the water in Bay Ridge; share what we missed in the comments.

09/19/13 3:58pm
09/19/2013 3:58 PM |


Well, we already how racist he is. At least, according to Bloomberg’s increasingly erratic exit interviews. So of course it makes sense that on the same day they publish tenuous evidence that a city without stop-and-frisk is a city where all of us will die in a hail of gunfire (and on the same day the Daily News reports on New York’s ever-widening income gap, by far the largest in the nation), the Post decided to take on Bill de Blasio for a so-called “war on minorities.”


And I mean, fair enough! He has been spending all that time on the campaign trail espousing a strict white power agenda and chattering away about cutting important social safety nets, like paid sick days and minimum wage! Or, wait. I guess what he’s been talking about are things like ending unconstitutional racial profiling of New York’s citizens, supporting public schools and broadening early education, and making sure employed New Yorkers are actually earning enough to live on. Whatever. Here’s the Post:

“De Blasio clinched the Democratic primary for mayor in large part by promoting his inter-racial family and, notably, his son’s prominent Afro. His “two cities” mantra is meant to suggest he’ll fight for the have-nots — minorities. In a new poll, African-Americans say they back him over Republican nominee Joe Lhota by a whopping 86 percent to 3 percent — that is, near-unanimously.

Yet de Blasio’s positions on all the key issues — crime, jobs, education — will hit minorities hard. At the same time, despite his attacks on the “1 percent,” he’ll leave wealthy New Yorkers relatively unscathed.

Putting aside the assumption that de Blasio has been coldly employing his own family as a calculated promotional tool (as opposed to just bringing his family to events like every other political candidate for every other political office), the op-ed goes on to re-frame all his pet issues as patently anti-minority: the end of stop-and-frisk means “hamstrung cops” and “to put it bluntly, more dead blacks and Hispanics;” fewer charter schools mean minority “kids will remain imprisoned in rotten traditional schools;” plans for paid sick days and living wage laws will “price out” employees and encourage companies to move operations out of one of the biggest, most crucial business hubs on the entire planet. “Kids like de Blasio’s son Dante (or, rather, kids like Dante whose dads aren’t powerful) will be hurt most,” writes the Post.

In other words, a lot of magical thinking about trickle-down economics, and general concern trolling of minority voters who clearly aren’t educated enough on the issues to even know how to vote in their own interests. Which, to be fair, is sort of representative of the current ideological chasm between mainstream conservative and liberal policy thinking, albeit re-framed in feverish, New York Post-y terms. Now that the democratic primary is behind us, this conversation was sort of inevitable. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could get through it without starting hysterical “wars,” and calling each other racists? Just a thought.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/19/13 3:17pm


  • c/o

I will take just about any excuse to incorporate Leonard Cohen song lyrics into a headline, but using these particular song lyrics gives me no joy because they’re pretty depressing, if not surprising. The New York Times reports today that recently released census data reveals “that even as the recession has ended, the city’s poverty rate continues to inch up and the gap between the rich and poor remains stubbornly large.” So, just in case you thought that maybe your experience of struggling to pay rent despite having a job, and also having lots of friends who are in similar situations was just anecdotal and perhaps didn’t apply to New York City at large, well, guess what? You were wrong. New Yorkers (some of them anyway) really are still struggling to get by, despite the fact that the recession is technically over. But what do you win for being right? Uh, nothing really. Other than the fun, fun prize of living in a city with the biggest income gap in the country, which, that’s not much of a prize at all, is it? No. It’s not. It’s really, really not.


Anyway. The census data reported that the city’s “poverty rate rose to 21.2 percent in 2012, from 20.9 percent the year before, meaning that 1.7 million New Yorkers fell below the official federal poverty threshold. That increase was not statistically significant, but the rise from the 2010 rate of 20.1 percent was.” But was there any news to mitigate the fact that more than one in five New Yorkers are living below the poverty line? Sort of. Deputy mayor for health and human services, Linda I. Gibbs tells the Times that “Since 2000…the city has gone to 13th highest from 6th highest among poverty rates for the 20 biggest cities.” So, that’s better than going in the opposite direction, we guess. But it still doesn’t address the gross inequality between the bottom fifth of earners in this city, who take home a median income of $8,933, and the top fifth, who take home an income of $222,871, with the top 5 percent making $436,931, which, the Times helpfully points out is “about 49 times as much as those with the lowest income.”

Now obviously this news is unsurprising, but it is something to keep in mind as we prepare to elect a new mayor, and say goodbye to Bloomberg, who so recently said that nothing would make him happier than “if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?” Hopefully, the next mayor (De Blasio, almost definitely) will focus not so much on Russian billionaires, or even New York City billionaires, but on the millions of people struggling to get by, people without health insurance or enough money to put food on the table for their children. Because “Everybody Knows” is a great song, but it kind of sucks to be living it.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

09/19/13 2:47pm


Last Friday night, we gathered at Gowanus’ newest (and arguably, most beautiful) event space 501 Union to celebrate the realease of Brooklyn Magazine‘s Fall ’13 issue. It’s our annual fall fashion issue, and Weeds-actress (and brand new Brooklyn resident) Mary Louise Parker graces the cover. We toasted to the new issue with Prairie Spirits and Sixpoint beer, while Brooklyn bands Hippy and Haybaby christened the 501 Union’s stereo equipment. Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate with us, and you’ll find the rest of the evening’s photos after the jump.

For invitations to future Brooklyn Magazine launch parties, click here.


09/19/13 11:00am


  • Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine’s comic book, Optic Nerve, has been running for just shy of two decades. The California-born cartoonist began publishing it through Drawn & Quarterly in 1994, when he was just 20 years old. The beloved series, now on its recently published thirteenth issue, has spawned several acclaimed books collections of its stories, including Sleepwalk and Other Stories and Summer Blonde. His last graphic novel, 2007’s Shortcomings, compiled a three-issue storyline from the comics that dealt bluntly with issues of sexual and racial insecurity without compromising the mix of cutting humor, intricate illustration, and emotional gut punching that’s come to characterize his work.


Now living in Brooklyn with his wife and young child, Tomine is two-thirds into a new Optic Nerve arc that’s seen him experimenting with format, style, and character voice. Newspaper funnies page comic strips share space with short stories rendered in lush, full color, next to page-long autobiographical sketches of dark and funny self-deprecation. This weekend, Tomine appears alongside dozens of noted authors at the Brooklyn Book Festival to promote his excellent new material. We talked to Tomine about the effect fatherhood’s had on his work, the stylistic shifts of his latest issues, and the persistence of physical objects in an increasingly digital world.

What neighborhood in Brooklyn do you live in?
I live in Park Slope.

Have you lived there since you moved to New York?
No, we’ve moved around to different parts of Brooklyn. We lived in Fort Greene for a while, too.

How have you liked Park Slope?
It’s good. We have a four-year old kid, so we’re kind of the target audience for the neighborhood.

How has having a kid effected your work routine?
Hugely. I work from home, so I’m just kind of always working around what’s going on with my kid. When she was a baby, I could really only get work done when she was sleeping, or if my wife took her out of the house for a little while. Now she’s older and she’s going to preschool, so I can have my days to get back to work again.

Do you think it effects the work itself, or mainly just the work routine?
I’m sure it affects the work itself in a variety of ways, too. For many years I was very comfortable doing the kind of work that I wanted, at the pace that I liked. Being able to support myself, basically. Now I’ve got more people to be responsible for, so that affects things to a degree. But also, most people will describe the impact on them as people once they have children, in terms of how you relate to the world and how you view your own parents. Hopefully, if someone has a good experience with parenthood, it can make them a more empathic person, which I think is very useful to artists or writers.

I think with some comics, it’s really easy to assume that characters are speaking in a voice that’s very similar to their creator. With your recent stuff, except for the brief autobiographical strips, that’s not the sense I’ve gotten. I was wondering how you go about building a character?
Gosh, I have no idea. I think if what you’re saying is true for some readers, that’s a good complement for me. That not every character just seems like a thinly-veiled stand-in for my own personality. To a degree they are. In the way that I work, where I’m doing all the writing and all the drawing myself, it is a trick to get other opinions, other thoughts, other voices in to the work. That’s the thing, especially with the last few issues of my comic, that I’ve been striving for. To not make it seem so much like the navel-gazing of one man. (laughs)

In Optic Nerve 13, the lead character’s dirtbaggy boyfriend guy, for example. I didn’t assume that was too much of yourself? Unless maybe there’s some dark current that you are exploring?
It’s sort of a long-standing line of inquiry, people kind of wanting me to describe how autobiographical each story is, or if I actually said that, or if I did that, or if those are my words, or whatever. I think part of the goal for me, especially with these last couple issues of the comic is to hopefully move away from that. I know I sort of set myself up for that with some of the earlier, more autobiographical stories that I did, and by some of the elements of the book Shortcomings, where it seemed as if it was autobiographical or that the character was more closely connected to me than he was. So, I understand that. I’m hoping that now people will start to be less interested in me as the person who created the stories, and more interested in the stories themselves.

Issues 12 and 13 of Optic Nerve seemed to bring a real switch in format, a different way that they look and are set up. I was wondering if…especially with issue 12…if shifting the style to a more traditionally cartoony look was part of trying to get a bit more distance in the way that people perceive it?
Yeah. To me Optic Nerve #12 is like the first real work of cartooning that I did after finishing Shortcomings. I had a couple other books come out in the interim that were either collections of illustration work, or reprints of other stuff. But to me, when I started working on issue 12 of Optic Nerve it was sort of a new starting point. I wanted to do something that could be criticized in a variety of ways, but not for being a repetition of the work that I’d done prior. I had a sense that people might not like this, or it might not be funny, or it might not be good, but it won’t be the same. That was kind of comforting to me as I slogged along on it.

How do you think about balancing a single issue with different stories, and what effect the combination of those different pieces will have?
It is something that I think about, and it gets a little more complicated with each issue. I’m working on issue 14 now, which will be the third in this series that I’m doing. When you start a new story you’re sort of considering what else might be in that issue, but you are also considering what else might be in the previous issue or the next issue, because these stories will all eventually be collected in one book. When I started issue 13, I thought, “Well I don’t want to do something in the format of a newspaper comic strip, because I just did that in the previous issue, so I’ll just rule that out right now.” When this book comes out collecting these stories there’s not going to be one kind of coherent overriding theme to the whole thing, but there will be sort of a rule that I placed on myself that each story will be set up or told or drawn or colored in a different way from the others. I am trying to avoid that repetition from story to story.

Can you give us any insight into the process that goes into a New Yorker cover? Are those pieces always solicited by them, or do you ever just bring them things that you think might work?
It’s both. There have been times when I’ve been given a specific theme to consider, and there’ve been times when I’ve just had an idea out of the blue that might work for them. Or some combination thereof.

Do you give a certain significance to folks like yourself, Chris Ware and Dan Clowes all occasionally giving covers to the New Yorker? Does that lend a certain amount of status or respect for underground comics, do you think?
Well, unfortunately, I don’t think me, Dan, or Chris would consider ourselves underground anymore.

Sure, but that was your start, at least.
The New Yorker is interesting because it has this position as being kind of a well-respected literary magazine. I think there’s a tendency to think of that as at odds with cartooning, which is considered more low-brow art form or something, but the truth is the New Yorker has had a very long history with cartoonists, and cartoons since its inception. I think that there might be some people who’ve been reading my work or Dan’s work or Chris’ work or, you know, Robert Crumb’s work from the very beginning, so they see some sort of arc from the point of where we first started getting published to being on the New Yorker cover. But everybody who’s in the New Yorker had some sort of humble beginning. I don’t think that there’s anything particularly unusual about it.

There seems to be a real tension in music or comics or whatever, between people who are still really enamored with physicality and people who are fully embracing “the cloud,” like we’re all sort of pushed to. Or who are actually now sort of turning against the real world. I’ve seen people who are really against paper now, and they love their e-books so much. There’s strong opinions all around.

Your strong opinion, I take it, is still strongly slanted towards the physical?
Yeah, but I’ve gone past the point of trying to will the world into the place that I want it to be. From my own personal reading and viewing and listening, I don’t feel impeded. I can buy all the books that I want. All my favorite cartoonists are still working on paper. I can buy records very cheaply if I want to. You kind of have to be realistic about things. If I’m just kind of looking out for what my own tastes and interests are, I think things are fine. In terms of society in general? Things are changing rapidly and there’s nothing that can be done about it, really. So there’s no point in complaining about it too much.

Do you take comfort in something like the Brooklyn Book Festival where everybody is sort of geared towards celebrating real things?
Yeah, I do. I have been a guest at other literary festivals, or comic conventions or things like that, but it’s interesting to me that the name of this has the word “book” embedded in it, so that it’s not about any one kind of content. It’s not about literature or children’s books or comics, or anything specific. It’s about the format, and it’s a format that’s very dear to me. It’s an event that I sort of look forward to every year, not necessarily because of my own professional involvement in it, but just as a person who really loves books. I don’t know, there’s some sort of life-affirming experience to seeing that many people of all different backgrounds and ages choosing to spend their weekend afternoon looking at books.

The 2013 Brooklyn Lit Supplement is presented by NYU MS in Professional Writing.

09/19/13 10:00am


  • Image via Etsy

Well, far be it for me to begrudge anyone their weird side-hustle. Rent is high and the economy’s still rough for most people. And, as Gothamist points out, Justing Gignac’s “cube of NYC garbage” thing has been successfully going for a while now, though that actually does qualify as a fairly interesting art project. This new thing? It is literally a pebble in a plastic box. But it’s a Brooklyn pebble.


Floyd Hayes, a UK-to-Brooklyn transplant who’s been peddling the “piece of Brooklyn” rocks on Etsy for $4 apiece, markets them as a “100% genuine Piece of Brooklyn as hand-picked from the streets of the coolest borough in the world.”

From the Etsy description:

For the price of a cup of joe, people can now have their very own, 100% genuine piece of Brooklyn and contribute to the creative energy the borough is famous for.

Each piece is totally unique and would make the perfect fun gift or keepsake.

So! I guess we could get up in arms about this as an avatar of something or other—capitalism? Etsy? the relentless, soul-deadening culture of “branding?”—but then, Hayes is donating $1 from each sale to the Brooklyn Arts Council, which is a pretty nice thing to do. Also (and maybe more importantly), as of this posting, it appears that only four of these have been sold so far. Seems pretty manageable to me.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/19/13 10:00am


It might be unfair to assume that everyone pursuing the writer’s life (whatever that even means) considers pursuing an MFA these days. In fact, many writers are vocally against immersing themselves in what is sometimes referred to as a writers factory. Both the pro- and con-MFA camps offer valid arguments. And we sometimes wonder ourselves if deciding to pursue an MFA is worth it at all. Sure, it may give you hope, and may finally validate your efforts into something more concrete (i.e., your book- length thesis) than your two part-time service jobs. But at what cost? At the very least, there will be a literal cost in the thousands of dollars for grad school tuition, but is there a chance your writing would also suffer? We don’t know! We wanted to find out, so we went in search of degree holders and seekers to inform a rounded answer to this fundamental question.


09/19/13 9:30am

Brooklyn Book Festival BookCourt Bookend Event Coffin Factory

On Monday, our culture editor Henry Stewart participated in a Brooklyn literary trivia contest at BookCourt. The Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event—one of dozens of literary events held in the run-up to Sunday’s festival—was hosted by Coffin Factory, the locally based literary magazine. Here, he recounts what happened.

I might be the only Bookend participant who starts the night at a bar. I get to BookCourt early, at least a half an hour before the trivia game begins, so I duck across Court Street into a bar called Cody’s. I like Cody’s. The seats are almost all full-up, populated by conspicuous regulars who chat and joke with each other. They seem like old friends, and the place looks older. I have a beer, drink it quick, ask for another, and drink it quick, too, staring up at muted ESPN. The bartender doesn’t seem to like me.


Across the street, everybody likes me. Randy and Laura from Coffin Factory spot me right away, and we make funny small talk, like “didn’t we see you outside an events space in Gowanus last weekend?” I meet Julia Fierro of the Sackett Street Writers Workshop for the first time, and she tells me I look so young—that she knew I had a beard, and so she thought I was, like, 50. “Are you young?” she asks me. I recently turned 30. I don’t know how to answer that question anymore.

Randy and Laura assure me, as they’ve already assured Penina Roth, the Franklin Park Reading Series curator, by email, that the questions won’t be too difficult, that the trickiest ones have been cut, and that most of them come from “Evan Hughes’s book,” Literary Brooklyn. This means my bet has paid off: the only studying I’ve done over the last two weeks, since I looked at my Google calendar and thought, “oh shit, that thing is coming up! I better go to powerHouse and buy that book!,” is reading this book and memorizing where Richard Wright hung out and the blocks where Walt Whitman used to live, which all turn out to be useful. I get a lot of questions right.

More useful is the free whiskey Randy and Laura have procured. A few drinks make it easier to perform in front of a crowd, though I can’t tell if I’m being a jerk or charming. (My friends tell me the latter; I’m sure the commenters here will tell me the former.) After Randy and I have a heated disagreement that almost comes to blows about the pronunciation of Pete Hamill’s name—and, for that matter, Mark Hamill’s—I ask if we can have more whiskey (“speaking of Pete Hamill…”), because then I know I won’t care even if it were Pete HAM-eye-uhl. Laura kindly brings it to me and fellow contestant John M. Cusick. Poor Penina is off to the side, trying to crane her neck around so she can just see the screen and read the questions before I “buzz in” by blowing into my noiseless noisemaker. Everyone’s points climb. “Darren Aronofsky!” “Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever!” “1856!”