09/16/16 12:47pm


If you are already a MariNaomi fan, a student of comics and graphic novels, or a devotee of Retrofit Comics, a publisher and comics store in Washington D.C., skip ahead because you don’t need convincing.

But if your main association with comics is bloated superhero franchises I’m here to tell you that there’s a whole world of emotionally complex, deeply personal and delightfully weird comic art out there. Give it a chance. And maybe start with I Thought YOU Hated ME, the new comic from MariNaomi, an award-winning author and illustrator, who is a panelist at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sept. 18.

I Thought YOU Hated ME traces the fraught friendship between shy, cautious Mari and rambunctious tomboy, Mirabai. Women of all ages will recognize Mirabai from grade school, whether you were her, or you were victimized by her. She’s the girl who says, “Isn’t that an ugly color?” and then when you agree, says, “Actually, I was kidding. I think it’s pretty” just to see if you’ll switch your opinion.

Over the years, though, Mari and Mirabai mature and their friendship deepens. While inseparable as teenagers, they’re also both fixated on their own adolescent tunnel vision–each thinks the other is way cooler than she is, and at the same time intimidated by and a little in love with her best friend. (more…)

09/16/16 11:18am


This weekend the Brooklyn Book Festival will pack the borough with some of the world’s best wordsmiths and the readers who love them. One of the local talents–and sure, it’s cliché that Brooklyn is full of writers, but it also happens to be true–that we’re most excited to see highlighted in this year’s festival is Helen Phillips. She’s a professor of creative writing at Brooklyn College and has published two books in two years, a dystopian fairy tale of a novel called The Beautiful Bureaucrat, and an incredibly engaging book of short stories titled Some Possible Solutions. 

Phillips’ work is full of sharp observations about modern work, life and marriage; unsettlingly familiar alternate realities; and a deep anxiety about the future. She’s speaking on a panel titled, Something Strange in the Neighborhood with writers J. Robert Lennon and Kaitlyn Greenidge at 3pm on Sunday. We chatted with her on the phone about New York, science fiction and motherhood.

They way you write about New York, or maybe it’s just the urban environment in general, reminds me of Paul Auster. The city is recognizable, but somehow like you’re looking through a special filter. The shapes are right, but there’s another, sort of foreign, distancing element, too. 

I feel like walking around the city it’s not hard to feel like moments of the futuristic, the dystopian, the surreal are always near at hand. To get there in fiction it doesn’t feel like I have to push that far to find those elements, like the dazzling sunset over the skyline of Manhattan where you realize that the colors are so vivid because of the pollution.

At the same time, I’m from Colorado and one of the great journeys of my adult life has been to live in an urban environment, and it’s a magical experience for me, so some moments in my work are dystopian versions of the city, while others are love songs.

Can you point to some of the love songs for me–I got more dystopia in Some Possible Solutions

09/08/16 10:11am
A visit to CW Pencil Enterprise will remind you how fun school supply shopping should be. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

A visit to CW Pencil Enterprise will remind you how fun school supply shopping should be. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

It’s suddenly September. What are you going to do now that school is back in session (at least a few days a week) and the weather is still nice? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Go: Sharpen Your Pencils CW Pencil Enterprise is a store that sells pencils. Yup, that’s it, just pencils. You might say it’s very niche, but it’s also very practical and fun. A rainbow display of pencils lines the wall, with everything from non-photo blue pencils to specialty graphites available. Kids will love the selection of rainbow pencils, colored pencils and an ingenuous pencil machine where you put in a quarter for a “surprise” pencil. My son was thrilled with his “Don’t settle for less…get the best at Johnson’s Garage” vintage #2. Plus, there’s a selection of State pencil bags, a book about sharpening pencils, and some handy notepads. The friendly enthusiastic staff will make sure you don’t leave empty-handed. CW Pencil Enterprise, 100a Forsyth St., Lower East Side (more…)

09/06/16 11:20am


The Story of a Brief Marriage, the debut novel from Anuk Arudpragasam (who will be speaking on a panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sept. 18), takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. We follow Dinesh, a young man who has lost his entire family in Sri Lanka’s civil war and now lives in a makeshift camp with other evacuees, driven toward the coast by an advancing army, numbly passing his days trying to help the perpetually wounded, shifting nearly mutely between the baseline tasks of survival–eating, sleeping, somehow passing the hours.

The anxious tedium changes when he marries Ganga, a young woman in the same circumstances. This is not a tender account of passion blooming in the most unlikely of places–Ganga’s father brings the two together out of practicality to help both of them avoid conscription by the rebel army, and because he would like very much to die knowing that his daughter has a husband.

Fans of Nicholson Baker will hear echoes of that writer’s obsession with daily minutia in the fluid stream of consciousness. We dive deep into Dinesh’s inner life as he moves through his day, which begins with the horrific aftermath of artillery fire on the camp, and ends with the same.  (more…)

09/11/15 10:23am
Clockwise from the left: Michaelangelo Matos (Dey St. Book); David Browne (Da Capo); Rahawa Haile (Brooklyn Book Festival); Jessica Hopper (David Sampson)

Clockwise from the top left: Michaelangelo Matos (Dey St. Book); David Browne (Da Capo); Rahawa Haile (Brooklyn Book Festival); Jessica Hopper (David Sampson)

In what has become a tradition for bookworms throughout the city come fall, the Brooklyn Book Festival will hit downtown Brooklyn on Sunday, Sept. 20. This latest installment marks the festival’s 10th anniversary, and as in the past, music and culture are just a two of the topics covered by in BBF’s panel discussions. Here’s a sampling of four events of interest, and they’re all free.

Prior to the actual festival date is a Bookend event on musical subcultures (Sept. 16, 7:30pm, The Great Georgiana, 248 DeKalb Ave.), featuring Brooklyn-based music journalist Michaelangelo Matos and Rolling Stone contributing editor David Browne with Mick Collins of the band the Dirtbombs. Both Matos and Browne published highly-recommended music books earlier this year: the former with The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America, and the latter with So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead. At face value, the worlds of EDM and the Dead seem incongruous. And yet, you know the writers will find a way to tie their respective subjects together. (more…)

09/03/15 12:06pm

We really mellowed out this summer, abandoning all but the beachiest of books, giving up on True Detective after a few dark and confusing episodes (turning to Mr. Robot instead), and eating ice cream for dinner instead of cooking or even bothering to go out for a real meal. It’s September now though, time to get ahold of ourselves and pick up a novel, hit a museum, try a just-opened restaurant, listen to new album and re-engage. Here are 10 cultural items and events we’re looking forward to this month.

You may not see Eugene Mirman shoot lasers out of his eyes at the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, but there will be plenty of other dazzling performances. Photo: Eugene Mirman

You may not see Eugene Mirman shoot lasers out of his eyes at the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, but there will be plenty of other dazzling performances. Photo: Eugene Mirman

10. Despite its self-aggrandizing name, the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival is actually a wonderful place to discover lesser-known comedians destined to become Daily Show or SNL superstars. Every September, it takes over The Bell House and Union Hall for a string of days, and as usual, the shows filled with celebrity stand-ups have already sold out. But as BB contrib Kate Hooker wrote around this time last year, “The secret to the festival is that the less star-studded line-ups are where you’ll see tomorrow’s new favorite funny person.” Case in point: Jo Firestone, whose innovative shows like Punderdome 3000 have become a staple of NYC nightlife, is in pole position for breakout success, and she is in two EMCF shows, including the aptly named “From the Basement of Union Hall to Network Television in 2-3 Years.” Get tickets while you can, festival runs Sept.18-21.


CNNZvYWUYAA0lkC9. Whether you are a card-carrying Jonathan Franzen fan, or you have yet to be moved by his depictions of the unhappy, All-American family and his critiques of modern life, there is reason to be optimistic about his new novel, Purity, which has attracted praise for actually being a pleasurable read. The internet has never been kind to Franzen–mainly because he says ridiculous shit, like toying with adopting an Iraqi war orphan–but his recent interview with Terry Gross revealed his endearing side, and his Sept. 26 reading as part of the Brooklyn Voices series with Greenlight Books and St. Joseph’s College is a chance to hear the Great American Novelist in person. Tickets are $30 and include a copy of the book–so you may want to download a copy in advance, then retrieve the hardcover version for your shelves.


A tart from last season of "The Great British Baking Show." Photo: BBC

A tart from last season of “The Great British Baking Show.” Photo: BBC

8. Imagine if you will, a magical tent in the middle of the English countryside. It’s been outfitted with 13 baking stations complete with ovens, mixers, canisters of flour and sugar, scales, whisks, everything necessary to bake. Under that tent 13 talented home bakers will toil to create cakes, biscuits, pastries and puddings of all kinds. They’re competing against one other, yet they’re remarkably kind and funny, popping by one another’s stations with a cup of tea or a word of encouragement while their bakes rise in the oven. This is The Great British Baking Show, hands down the most delightful food competition ever created. The passionate amateurs competing for the title of England’s top baker are so lovely, so engaged and so skillful, you’ll be held rapt as they prepare obscure European confectionary and towering tea cakes. If it sounds dull, just give it a try, there’s something soothing and civil about this show that’s hard to explain, but easy to adore. Season two (for America, there are more seasons that have aired on the BBC) starts on Thirteen Sunday, Sept. 6, and if you haven’t added the PBS app to your Roku or other device, this is your chance to do so (and binge on Antiques Roadshow after the baking is over). (more…)

09/18/14 11:00am

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The Brooklyn Book Festival is this Sunday, and it has us thinking about what to read as the weather grows cooler. Who better to recommend a great book than one of Brooklyn’s many writers? We talked to a distinguished group of local authors about what they’re looking forward to curling up with–or baking from–this fall.

Mark Chiusano: author of Marine Park, part of Brooklyn Bound: Writing Kings County tonight, Sept. 18, a Brooklyn Book Festival Bookends event
Recommendation: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, out now
“In the interest of full disclosure I work for the company that publishes this book, but Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, is worth the conflict of interest. Station Eleven is the warmest, most haunting, most lyrical post-apocalyptic story I’ve ever read, featuring a travelling Shakespearean theater troupe, an otherworldly art project, a strange airplane and a harrowing escape from Toronto. Jumping back and forth before and after the fall, Mandel uses the pressure of the apocalypse to evoke the exquisiteness of the present.”

Emma Straub: author of The Vacationers, part of Join the Conversation with Leonard Lopate and Mary Gordon at the Brooklyn Book Festival
Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Peterson, out Sept. 30
“Right now I am breathlessly anticipating Anne Helen Peterson’s Scandals of Classic Hollywood, based on her popular column for The Hairpin. For the past year, I’ve been blaming my baby for not having enough time to read, and I’m hoping that these bite-sized pieces of salaciousness will quickly convert me back into being a Reader of Books. Anne Helen, take me away!” (more…)

09/17/14 1:36pm
Enjoy your last BBQ of the summer at the Rock the Pulaski benefit on Saturday. Photo courtesy North Brooklyn Boat Club

Enjoy your last BBQ of the summer at the Rock the Pulaski benefit on Saturday. Photo courtesy North Brooklyn Boat Club

Last week meteorologists predicted record snowfalls this year—up to 50 times the amount we saw last winter! Sure the story was a spoof, but it’s just a reminder to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts. Here’s how to make the last few days of summer count.

We took a break from Funny Story in August, but our monthly storytelling event at Brooklyn Brewery with Tom Shillue is back on Thursday and let’s just say that Tom seems to have spent his summer convincing every glorious weirdo he met to be on this month’s show. Four stories and a beer goes for just $10—we dare you to find more entertainment for less money anywhere, and this won’t even give you a rash. On the pricier end of things, the ladies of The Meat Hook are hosting brunch at Brooklyn Grange on Sunday. If you haven’t been up on the rooftop farm in the Navy Yard this is your chance—it’s one of the most spectacular views in all of New York. Expect to wined and dined to total excess and don’t think of it as brunch, think of it as an experience. 

Sunday also looks like it will be a beautiful day for the People’s Climate March, when 100,000 people are expected to take to the streets in Manhattan to demand that world leaders curb carbon emissions, in anticipation of a historic U.N. Climate Summit.  

Here are seven other ways to spend a memorable, sunny week in New York.  (more…)

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09/20/13 12:00pm

What an exciting time to give a darn about books!  The Brooklyn Book Festival is this weekend. The Frankfurt Book Fair is right around the corner and sprinkled in between is a pleasant selection of readings and events to keep your left brain satiated well into the holiday season.

Any night for a few weeks
Reviews on this J.D Salinger documentary have been somewhat split (leaning toward bad), but the trailer for this one is just too damn enticing to miss out.  Sure, a documentary about one of the most enigmatic and influential writers of the century might have been better directed by someone other than the man behind Alien Vs. Predator, but nonetheless, that trailer is just killer!  Plus, it might make you want to write, and hide in a cabin for the better part of your existence, so bring a loved one and some anti-depressants with you. It’s playing at Nitehawk Cinema and The Angelika. 

Friday, Sept. 20
Fourth Annual Brooklyn Indie Party!
Greenlight Bookstore, 686 Fulton St., Fort Greene, 7:30pm
Greenlight Bookstore partners with some of Brooklyn’s best independent book and magazine publishers to throw a Brooklyn-sized party celebrating the spirit of literary independence in Brooklyn with food, drinks and music! Partygoers will mingle with the borough’s great authors and publishers, discover new works and celebrate Brooklyn Book Festival week.