The Brooklyn Book Festival: Hopelessly Manhattanized?

I don’t wish to sound ungrateful for the gratis plastic cup of wine that I enjoyed on Friday night, but the Brooklyn Book Festival launch party was more than a tad pedantic. The crowd of elitist insiders, bored organizers, and exhausted publicists — all hoping that cheese and crackers would serve as a surrogate dinner, all speedily adopting that predictable industry pretense of snubs and meaningless status, all more than a little uncomfortable with Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz’s call for a moment of silence for the late Tim Russert — gathered together in a manner that was more evocative of Manhattan rather than Brooklyn. Circular buttons of various Brooklyn neighborhoods were available with elliptical offerings of nuts on various tables. But my old neighborhood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, wasn’t represented among this mostly Caucasian representative provincialism. I suspect that this jittery atmosphere, combined with a recent bout of deadline-induced cabin fever, caused me to be excessively ebullient. And thus I apologize to my blogging peers and friends if I affrighted or unnerved them in the process.

Nevertheless, the truth of the matter was that one could not be one’s natural literary self at this shindig. And nobody had the heart or the decency to suggest congregating elsewhere. We were obliged to stay for some reason, believing that the name Brooklyn would magically translate into streetcred.

But who were the big authors announced? Jonathan Franzen — a man who openly joked that he had only spent three nights of his life in Brooklyn, remarking that they were not happy. Joan Didion — who has almost certainly done more for Manhattan than Brooklyn. Dorothy Allison — who will certainly be more accepted in Brooklyn than in Manhattan, assuming that the Brooklyn Book Festival has not become as hopelessly Manhattanized as I fear.

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