Fall 2013 NYC Literary Guide
Arts & Culture
by Jessica Allen, 09/11/2013
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Summer and fall have their unique literary pleasures. Summer's long days and vacation getaways are perfect for reading the latest artsy bestseller or long-form biography; autumn, though ostensibly more geared to introspection, is a time to celebrate the craft of writing with discussions and festivities all throughout NYC. Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer as well as the start of the City's most culturally active season, bringing with it a series of literary events that allow casual readers, bookworms and bibliophiles to delve into the printed and spoken word in all its magnificent genres—and to take a stab at writing themselves.
The literary component of the fall cultural scene is anchored by the Brooklyn Book Festival, NYC's largest free literary event, held on September 22 (related events begin on the 16th), with readings and panel discussions from a plethora of famous wordsmiths including Meg Wolitzer, Tom Wolfe and Edwidge Danticat. The New Yorker Festival, which goes from October 4 to 6, also offers panels and lectures from leading literary lights. Attendees can expect to hear from George Saunders, Malcolm Gladwell, Zadie Smith and more.
In a somewhat less formal vein is this year's Lit Crawl Manhattan, which takes place on September 14. Like a pub crawl, this event involves participants moving from venue to venue (mostly in the East Village and Lower East Side) to hear poets and writers read and kibitz. Unlike a pub crawl, the intoxication here derives mostly from words—though at certain venues there are drinks to be had as well.
If limited-edition artists' books and small-press art monographs are your thing, head to the eighth annual NY Art Book Fair, from September 19 to 22. Organized by the acclaimed art-book venue Printed Matter, Inc., and held at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, the event showcases an astonishing array of zines, catalogs, books, monographs and periodicals from around the world.
Lit fiends who enjoy their words in verse form will savor the pleasures of poetry at the Poets Forum, held from October 24 to 26. Participants can attend lectures or readings, refine their pentameter during a workshop or take poetry-themed walking tours. Featured speakers include Anne Waldman, Dara Wier and Jordan Davis, poetry editor for The Nation.
The New York Public Library kicks off its literary series, Live from the NYPL, with notables Margaret Atwood and Carl Hiaasen discussing Atwood's work on September 17. Later in the month, on September 30, NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award finalist Jesmyn Ward will read from Men We Reaped: A Memoir, her first nonfiction work. Ward won a 2011 National Book Award for Salvage the Bones, and in this new book, she reflects on losing loved ones—including her brother—and the ongoing impact of racism in the United States.
The NYPL's featured dialogues encompass a range of genres, and mystery fans will have much to enjoy on December 4, when Michael Connelly and Martin Cruz Smith will discuss their collective bibliographies.
Celebrating its 75th season, the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y welcomes famed actor Sir Patrick Stewart along with classical pianist Emanuel Ax on September 30. The duo will give their NYC premiere performance of Richard Strauss' composition for the Tennyson poem Enoch Arden. Pulitzer winner, Harvard professor and poet Jorie Graham takes the stage to read a selection of her work on October 7, followed by author T.C. Boyle sharing a new short story anthology on October 10.
Young readers can honor writing and storytelling at Thalia Kids' Book Club, at Symphony Space, which brings together children's book authors and readers. On October 9, Rick Riordan will talk about The House of Hades, the fourth book in his Heroes of Olympus series for kids. In addition to the discussion, attendees will work on a creative writing project of their own.
Symphony Space also hosts literary events for grown-ups, as on October 16, when artists including Tony Kushner, Alec Baldwin and Sally Field read short stories by John Updike, in support of a forthcoming edition of the author's writing from Modern Library. On November 20, Pulitzer-winning novelist Jennifer Egan emcees a night of selections from The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, edited by Dave Eggers.
You could attend a literary event at one of the many Barnes & Noble locations around the city just about every day of the week. The flagship Union Square store tends to attract the biggest names as they read and discuss their latest debuts: visiting authors include Nicholas Sparks on September 19, Elizabeth Gilbert on October 1, Jhumpa Lahiri on October 3 and Bill Bryson on October 4.
Just a few blocks down Broadway, the Strand Book Store holds readings among its legendary 18 miles of books. Food writer Anya Von Bremzen will talk about her memoir, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, with fellow epicurean author Melissa Clark on September 19. Musician Graham Nash reads from his autobiography on September 30, offering a rare personal account—and no doubt, some gossip—from a storied era of American culture.
NYC's smaller bookstores, like Housing Works, a beloved secondhand shop that uses all of its profits to help those affected by HIV and AIDS, punch well above their weight with their literary events. On September 12, McNally Jackson in NoLIta welcomes biographer and novelist Roxana Robinson as part of its "Conversations on Practice," a regular series in which writers, artists and musicians share insights about the creative process; Robinson will discuss Sparta, an acclaimed book that traces the lingering trauma of an Iraq War veteran after he returns home.
Throughout the boroughs, book bashes bring together authors, fans and like-minded literati. What’s certain to be an interesting crowd will attend the midnight release party for Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Bleeding Edge. The fete begins at 10:30pm on September 16 at Greenpoint’s Word, and while it includes Pynchon-themed games, it almost surely will not include an appearance by the famously reclusive author. More sociable writers Terry McMillan, promoting a new novel, and cultural critic Stanley Crouch, presenting his biography of jazz great Charlie Parker, come to Brooklyn's BookCourt on September 18 and 24, respectively.
Elsewhere in the borough, the indie bookstore Greenlight Bookstore has its share of celebrities and celebrations. The Fort Greene shop helps launch Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps by comics artist Art Spiegelman on September 18. The following week it cohosts two events: a conversation between Richard Dawkins and Rebecca Goldstein at the BAM Harvey Theater on September 23—the topic is Dawkins's new memoir—and another between novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Richard Price at Housing Works on September 25.
The Half King, in Chelsea, is similar to your neighborhood bar, if your neighborhood bar were co-owned by author Sebastian Junger and put on regular readings and exhibits by well-known artists, photographers and writers. KGB Bar is probably the most famous watering hole to host a reading series—the venue runs several—and it has spawned a journal, a book series and countless careers. Email a story to the hosts of the monthly Liars' League NYC held there for the chance to have an actor read your story on stage.
Remember to check the venue's calendar before you go gentle into that good night, and note that many of the aforementioned events require tickets. With this series of literary expeditions, you'll have plenty to read for winter hibernation.