Monday, November 29, 2010

100 Notable Books

The New York Times has posted a list of the 100 Notable Books of 2010. Congratulations to all the authors, but especially to those on the list who are associated with our Library in some way:

David Goodwillie told me he wrote part of his novel American Subversive here at the Library...Member Jonathan Franzen's on the list for Freedom and Stacy Schiff for Cleopatra.

Member Barnet Schecter's George Washington's America: A Biography Through his Maps was hailed as one of the best coffee table books of the year. Barnet will discuss his book at an event at the Library next week.

a busy Tuesday

Lots going on tomorrow...Pick one:

Artist Panel and Gallery Talk @ 6pm:
Member Meredith Bergmann will be participating with fellow artists Stanley Greenberg, Nora Herting and Andrés Vera Martínez to discuss the Brooklyn Historical Society's new exhibit
Artist and Artifact: Re|Visioning Brooklyn's Past
Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street

Books at the Bar Author Reading and Reception @ 6pm
Benjamin Hett, author of Crossing Hitler, examines the horrifying consequences to one principled Berlin lawyer who dared take on the Fuhrer in the courtroom on the eve of the Nazi rise to power. The Books at the Bar reading series is sponsored by the New York City Bar Association and chaired by NYSL member and NY State Judge Diane Kiesel.
Free and open to the public
New York City Bar Association
42 West 44th Street

Author Reading @ 6:30pm
Join Morris Dickstein at the Museum of the City of New York for a discussion of his award-winning book Dancing in the Dark and a conversation focusing on how Great Depression-era culture celebrated the “everyman” — from the music of Aaron Copland to the radio comedy “Amos and Andy” to the cartoons of Denys Wortman.
Reservations required: 917-492-3395 or e-mail
$6 museum members; $8 seniors and students; $12 non-members
$6 when you mention The Writing Life blog
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street

Proust Society Lecture @ 7pm
NYSL member Anka Muhlstein takes a closer look at Baron de Charlus in this Proust Society Lecture at The Center for Fiction.
Proust Society Members Free, Center for Fiction Members $5, General Admission $8
The Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Library will be closed on Thursday, November 25 and Friday, November 26 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

We will be open as usual on the weekend. I will be here on Saturday, so come on in and say hello...

And did anybody notice that I changed the look of the blog? It's awesome! (well that's the name of the design template anyway). Does anyone care?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Writing Groups Next Week

Mark your calendars for next week's writing group meetings.

MONDAY, Nov 22: Fiction Writers Group II
11am -1pm, Whitridge Room
Please note that this is a change from the date published in the print newsletter.

TUESDAY, Nov 23: Poets Group
4:30pm - 6:30pm, Whitridge Room

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Louis Begley at The Center for Fiction

Member Louis Begley will be reading from and discussing his latest book Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters at The Center for Fiction TONIGHT.

The Center for Fiction
Thursday, Nov 18, 7pm
Center for Fiction members, $5
General Public, $8
or donate a book to the Center's Books for NYC Schools program
Proust Society members get in FREE.

IMPAC Award Longlist is really LONG

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is the largest and most international literary prize, with libraries from around the world nominating books which can be written in any language.

As a result, this award's longlist is reaaaaally long. 162 titles are represented from 43 countries.

Congratulations to our own Library member Colum McCann for his nomination for Let the Great World Spin...The IMPAC's shortlist will be named on April 12.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What to make of this?

I read today that the Wasserstein Prize (a $25,000 award granted annually to an emerging female playwright under the age of 32) "declined to make an award in its fourth year".

I read this with obvious interest, as the award is named for late, famed playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who wrote many of her plays here at the Library. (In fact, if you want to channel Wasserstein's genius, book Study Room 1, in which you can still hear trickling water through the exposed pipes, which according to library lore, was a feature that Wasserstein found comforting).

The Prize panel didn't think that any of the 4 finalists deserved the prize. So how did they become finalists in the first place? According to the rules of the prize, “playwrights were nominated for the prize by leading theatrical practitioners who were particularly knowledgeable about new plays and emerging playwrights". Surely one of these nominated playwrights was worthy.

What do you think? Was the panel right to decline to award the prize?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Constance Rosenblum at McNally Jackson

Member Constance Rosenblum, editor of the new anthology More New York Stories: Best of The City Section will be at McNally Jackson Books tonight along with contributors Helen Benedict, Carolin H. Dworin, Jake Mooney, Gregory Beyer, Saki Knaffo, and Katherine Bindley.

Constance is the author of The New York Society Library's 2009 New York City Book Award winning Boulevard of Dreams, a social history of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

McNally Jackson Books
Monday, November 15, 7 pm

a very New York kind of day

Every so often (maybe not often enough), I have a day off when I stay here in the city and just wander around. I do love New York City, but I also spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out places to go to get away from it. I'm the one who arranges to take her comp time on a Friday so that every other week, I have a 3 day weekend. Believe me, I can put together some amazing trips in that short a period of time and red-eye flights do not put me off. I have managed to spend my 3 days as far away as San Francisco and Seattle, leaf peeping in New Hampshire, and even hiking in Utah(ok, so that one required 4 days). But sometimes, I manage to stay put and it's then that I realize how amazing it is to live here.

So what does a Manhattanite do on a beautiful day with absolutely no plans? Well, Brooklyn seemed kind of exotic. I packed my book (find me a librarian that is ever without at least one book in their bag) and headed out to the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont Street. I'd never been there, despite the fact that a lifetime ago, I worked not far from there at the Metrotech complex. The museum is small, but powerful - and prominently displayed in the lobby is NYSL member, sculptor and poet Meredith Bergmann's HISTORIA TESTIS TEMPORUM: Pinky, 2010, a cast resin rondel of freed slave Sally Maria Diggs that she created for the museum's new exhibit Artist & Artifact: Re/Visioning Brooklyn's Past. I had hoped to see the work of the other 10 artists selected to create works for the exhibit, but they are across the street at the (closed on Sunday) public gallery BRIC ARTS/MEDIA/BKLYN.

While I am a terrific wanderer in unfamiliar places, I generally prefer to do it with a map in hand. On the just-in-case. But with the Brooklyn Bridge and the river in sight, I rambled at ease, down some very lovely streets towards the water. Fall leaves are a kind of fairy dust, don’t you think? I made my way down Middagh Street and found myself at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where I sat for a while watching the promenaders and the boat traffic on the river and noticing the partially completed park way down below. So I meandered through the streets again, following the bridge lines, and found myself at Brooklyn Bridge Park. I'm embarrassed to write that I only discovered the extent of the Hudson River Park a little while ago (on another "found myself in NYC with nothing to do" day), so this was another great surprise. I had already eaten a late breakfast or I would have had a lobster roll at the Ditch Plains Drop In or a carne asado taco at the Calexico cart. But then I discovered the Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar. I sat and read my book for a while, but was sidetracked by the police officers on the NYPD boat waving to the children, the couple taking wedding photos, and the Manhattan skyline itself, which despite its now gaping hole, is still breathtaking.

From my waterside seat, I watched tourists snapping photos from the Brooklyn Bridge and realized {gasp} that I'd never, ever walked it myself. Time to right a wrong. I'm a fast walker, and get agitated in crowds, and while the views in places are obstructed by sheeting I found that I understood completely why the bridge had inspired so many, from Vladimir Malakovsky to Hart Crane to Jack Kerouac and Marianne Moore. I will have to mark my calendar for next year's Poets' House annual Bridge Walk.

Across the bridge, I wandered north, past City Hall, Chinatown (next time I will plan ahead to make it to MOCA before it closes). Then I landed in Paris in New York. I might have been the only English speaker at Tartinery, where the delicious tartines are presented on Poilane country bread imported from France daily. Instead of negotiating a whirlwind 3 day weekend to Paris, maybe I could just read Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris with a glass of bourgogne and a tartine in front of me instead.

Around the corner, I stopped into McNally Jackson Books (bookstores are required stops for librarians. it's a sort of sickness) where naturally I bought two more books that I certainly didn't need. I continued my ramble into a leather goods store with a friendly shopkeeper; upon learning that I was a librarian she asked me where she could find copies of a beautifully designed art magazine she had recently discovered. I suggested that her best best would be the Periodicals Room at NYPL, and upon double-checking today, am relieved to report that they have nearly the full run.

I had a day full of literary inspirations and it had started with a Library member. It ended with a member too. Member Janet Dierbeck had invited me to a reading of her daughter Lisa Dierbeck's new book at KGB Bar. Lisa is an accomplished writer whose new publishing collaborative Mischief and Mayhem Books is releasing her The Autobiography of Jenny X. I had just finished and enjoyed One Pill Makes You Smaller in which she channels Alice in Wondlerland and the Jefferson Airplane in a story about a prematurely developed 11 year old in the anything goes 1970s, so it was a pleasure to be able to tell her in person.

Just as I was congratulating myself on a nearly ideal day, there was the MTA and an unexpected service shutdown as a stark reminder that my perfect Sunday was officially over.

NYSL Writing Groups this Week

Memoir Writers
TODAY, Monday, Nov 15, 3pm - 5:45pm
Whitridge Room

Fiction Writers Group I
Tuesday, Nov 16, 5pm - 6:45pm
Whitridge Room

Writing groups are open to Library members only. No registration is required. Any questions, call Carolyn, Writer Services Librarian at 212-288-6900 x244.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jonathan Franzen at 92nd Street Y

Alas, the 92nd Street Y's website indicates that this event is SOLD OUT, but that they may release more seats closer to the event date.

Member Jonathan Franzen (Freedom) joins Lorrie Moore (A Gate at the Stairs) in conversation.

92nd Street Y (Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street)
Monday, November 15, 8pm

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Special invitation for readers of the blog!

Monday, November 15, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Louis Auchincloss Prize: Pete Hamill

In recognition of the enormous literary legacy of Louis Auchincloss, who died in January 2010, the Museum of the City of New York presents the Louis Auchincloss Prize this year to renowned man of letters Pete Hamill. In accepting the prize, Mr. Hamill will offer reflections on the life and art of Louis Auchincloss and on parallels between their literary lives.

A reception will follow Mr. Hamill’s talk.

Space is limited and reservations are required:
917-492-3395 or e-mail
$20 general admission; $15 for Museum members
$15 when you mention The Writing Life blog

The Arvon Book of Life Writing

We've just purchased this new book for the collection that might be of interest to those of you writing biography, autobiography and memoir:

The Arvon Book of Life Writing by Sally Cline and Carole Angier offers:
1-reflections on their trade by the authors
2-personal tips and tales from 32 top British and American life writers
3-a practical guide, complete with exercises

Roxana Robinson at The Center for Fiction TONIGHT

Member Roxana Robinson joins fellow writers (and book critics) Lev Grossman, and Jane Ciabattari in this intriguing talk Fiction Writers/Book Critics: What Happens When You Do Both?. Moderated by Noreen Tomassi, Director at The Center for Fiction.

The Center for Fiction
Thursday, November 11, 7pm

Meredith Bergmann's Sculpture

Member Meredith Bergmann is a poet and sculptor whose newest work, self-described "pseudo-public art", is now on exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

For the new exhibition Artist and Artifact: Re|Visioning Brooklyn’s Past, the museum asked artists, musicians and writers to explore the Society's collection for inspiration for original art work. Meredith found inspiration (and puzzlement) in the terracotta busts of (non-Brooklynites) Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Mozart, and Gutenberg that adorn the BHS building and in turn, created a bust of Sally Maria Diggs, a 19th century Brooklyn slave freed with the help of Henry Ward Beecher.

The exhibition is on now through December 16, 2010
The Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street at Clinton Street

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Open Mic Night III

So, The New York Society Library's Open Mic Night III is now just a memory, but what a night it was!

Big thanks go to our fabulous host, member Betsy Carter, who just happened to be celebrating the release of the paperback edition of her latest novel, The Puzzle King on the very same day.

As I know from past Open Mics, there are always a few last minute changes, and last night was no exception. Toni Schlesinger, (who hosted our 2nd Open Mic last March) kicked off the evening's readings - and while she was planning on reading narrative non-fiction that featured "apprehension, romance, murder, and the sea", instead she gave us a mariner's fictional diary that remarkably also included apprehension, romance, murder, and the sea!

We had a number of poets on the program. The Library's Poetry group leader, Jan C. Grossman, read from a manuscript in progress that featured a beautiful and graceful poem that was inspired by and written in our Members' Room. Phoebe Hoss's poems were inspired by the hearbreaking story of her son's struggle with schizophrenia and Alison Tung gave us a lesson in the form and rules of T'ang Dynasty poetry when sharing her poem Conservatory Garden-October. The Library's own Alan Behler (our newest Systems Assistant) celebrated his sister's wedding and channeled a 3rd grade memory into two poems from a work in progress.

The evening featured strong fiction - Jack Buchanan's cold war thriller The Rise of Stefan Gregorovic; Cary Barbor's novel in progress about a bodega owning Queens family; the forthcoming final book in Chris Evan's Iron Elves trilogy; Diana Altman's In Theda Bara's Tent; Carrie Cooperider's funny and clever work in progress titled Figures of Speech; and Pink, Hot Summer, the forthcoming follow-up to Ellen Liberty's first novel Heat, Gin, Despair. I'm usually thrilled when our member writers make connections, but what to make of this? Alas, meeting fellow writer Carrie Cooperider triggered Jack Buchanan's unfortunate childhood memories of corporal punishment at the hands of an Ohio schoolmaster named Cooperider. Carrie did own up to having family in Ohio, but we wisely didn't pursue it any further.

Jack Levin read from his monologue Terrifying, a reference to a description once given of his voice that was tempered by a kind soul who actually liked that voice enough to ask him to record her voicemail message. And believe it or not, in a totally unexpected coincidence, that "kind soul", playwright and NYSL member Cynthia (C.S.) Hanson just happened to be in the audience last night. Cynthia and husband Kent staged a reading of her comic play "Stalk Me, Baby" at our very first Open Mic!

And other surprises were in store...prolific children's author Robert Quackenbush managed to read his entire book - the 30 year old recently reissued book for young readers First Grade Jitters.

Victoria Reiter once again (remember Salvador Dali at Open Mic Night I?) wowed the audience with her memory piece Hollywood Party about the strange pairing of Milton Berle and Carl Sandburg. Laura J. Snyder admitted to being nervous reading her soon to be released The Philosophical Breakfast Club despite the fact that her day job is a Professor of Philosophy at St. John's. Surprisingly, only one memoir was presented last evening: Mary Catherine Bolster, one of our Memoir writing group members, read from a work in progress that she started as part of a writing program.

In addition to our amazingly talented member writers, a huge thanks also goes out to the Library staffers who helped make the evening such a success: Conservator George Munoz and Children's Library Assistant Ana Chiu made sure there were no A/V mishaps; Sara Holliday, our Events Coordinator extraordinaire worked the door and made sure there was plenty of liquid courage on hand; and Harry Abarca, as always, working behind the scenes to set up and break down the Members' Room so we could get as close as possible to a downtown "poetry slam" ambience in such a rarefied setting. And I can't forget our Head Librarian Mark Bartlett, who is always supportive whenever I propose yet another Writer Services "experiment".

Stacy Schiff on Cleopatra

Member Stacy Schiff kicks off The New York Society Library/Channel 13 Author Series with Cleopatra: A Life, her new book which has been garnering rave reviews.
This event is for Library Members and their guests.

Wednesday, November 10, 6:30pm
Kaye Playhouse, 695 Park Ave


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Andrew McCarthy at Strand Bookstore TONIGHT

Member Andrew McCarthy will be reading tonight at the Strand Bookstore from the new Lonely Planet anthology A Moveable Feast; Life-Changing Food Adventures Around the World.

An actor turned writer, Andrew's travel writing has appeared in Bon Appetit, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Travel, and Afar, among others. He has been named the Lowell Thomas 2010 Travel Journalist of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers.

Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway at 12th St.
7pm, Free


Adam Gopnik at the Met TONIGHT

Member Adam Gopnik discusses J.D. Salinger and the City at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010, 6:00 PM
Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

Ellen Feldman at NYPL

Member Ellen Feldman joins biographer Hazel Rowley in a talk at NYPL: FDR, Eleanor, Lucy: A Great President, A Brilliant Political Marriage, A Tragic Love Affair

Tuesday, November 9, 4pm
The New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's a busy week at the Library ...

Mark your calendars.

Monday, Nov 8
Non-fiction writing group, 3 pm, Whitridge Room

Tuesday & Thursday, Nov 9 and 11
Writing Your Life: A Memoir Workshop , 10 am, Whitridge Room
Please note that this event is fully registered.

Tuesday, Nov 9
OPEN MIC Night III! 6 pm, Members' Room
Reading slots are filled, but audience members are welcome. $15 at the door.

Wednesday, Nov 10
Stacy Schiff on Cleopatra, 6:30 pm, Kaye Playhouse (NYSL/Channel 13 Author Series Lecture), $10

Friday, November 5, 2010

Non-Fiction Writers Meeting MONDAY

Are you working on biography, history, self-help, or narrative non-fiction?
Join the New York Society Library Non-fiction Writing Group!

Monday, November 8, 3pm, Whitridge Room
{The group meets regularly on the 2nd Monday of each month}
Open to Library members only.

Hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Susan Cheever on Louisa May Alcott TONIGHT at the Library

Bestselling author and Library member Susan Cheever will discuss the life and work of Louisa May Alcott, the subject of her latest book.

Wednesday, November 3, 6:30 pm
The New York Society Library, Members' Room
$10 with advance registration/$15 at the door
This event is open to the public.