Archive for the tag 'literature'

New York, December 20, 1909. "S.L. Clemens." Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, aboard the Bermudian after a trip to Bermuda, four months before his death. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. Source: Shorpy

“There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.” ― Ray Bradbury

BETWEEN THE LINES: About 18 months ago, a debate took place at a Canarsie elementary school over a book of poems, when parents objected to some content, such as an anti-war poem with a line that President Bush “loves war so much he gets an erection,” and another about a crack-addicted hooker performing lewd acts.

City Councilman Charles Barron, who wrote the forward to the 2006 collection — which was authored by his goddaughter, Tylibah Washington — defended the book, noting it “speaks to the experiences and struggles of inner city youth,” though he subsequently acknowledged portions of it might be inappropriate for pre-teens.

Nevertheless, in a follow-up, Barron — who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for the newly-created 8th Congressional District seat — objected to editing the poetry book, yet he called for removing Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from classrooms because the “despicable N” word is used numerous times.

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Source: JSmith Photo/Flickr

The following is from our friends at the Shorefront YM-YWHA (3300 Coney Island Avenue). On a side note, I had the opportunity to meet with the three playwrights, as well as the backers of this initiative, yesterday. Three truly interesting people working on an awesome project that will bring stories of Brighton Beach to a global audience. Check it out.

Elyse Dodgson (Head of International Dept. at the Royal Court Theatre, London), The Public Theater (NY), and Actors Touring Company (UK) present: a free practical workshop/discussion hosted by three of the most important contemporary playwrights in Europe today.

Natasha Vorozhbit (Ukraine), Pavel Pryazhko (Belarus) and Mikhail Durnenkov (Russia) will invite the audience to take a journey into the process of playwriting and the world of contemporary drama. They will be joined by Elyse Dodgson (London), the Director of Actors Touring Company Ramin Gray (UK), and translator Sasha Dugdale (London). The session will run in English as well as in Russian.  

Background Information:  In the 1960s, Dodgson’s mother filmed a documentary about life in Coney Island, a document now lost. That missing film and her own family’s emigration from Eastern Europe to Brighton Beach inspired Dodgson to commission playwrights to spend two weeks in Brighton Beach and to turn their findings into plays. The project has come to life thanks to the support received from Public Theater (NY), Actors Touring Company (UK) and the Genesis Fund.

Natasha Vorozhbit (Ukraine) Ms. Vorozhbit studied at the Moscow Literary Institute.  Her plays, Demons and Galka Motalko were staged in Moscow and Latvia. She also writes extensively for television including the script for series School in Russia. She has also written two plays for the Royal Court Theatre in London.  Her play THE GRAIN STORE was produced at the ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY in 2009.

Pavel Pryazhko (Belarus) Mr. Pryazhko has won several major Russian language theatre awards and his plays have been produced throughout Europe. His play LIFE IS GRAND was invited to the Golden Mask Festival in Moscow in 2010. His play HARVEST was presented as a staged reading in London in the Royal Court Theatre’s International Season in 2011.

Mikhail Durnenkov (Russia) Mr. Durnenkov is the author of over 15 plays including THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER which was produced at the Moscow Arts Theatre. His plays have been translated and produced throughout Europe. THE DRUNKS was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009. He has also participated in workshops with the Royal Court Theatre in London.

When: Sunday, June 3, at 5:00 p.m.
Where: Shorefront YM-YWHA (3300 Coney Island Avenue)

Photo by Elaine L.

The following story – an unexpected delight! – landed in my inbox this morning from Mickie Whitley, a 13-year resident of Sheepshead Bay. “This neighborhood is one of those which has a very tangible natural presence and I find the juxtaposition of this in New York City to be fascinating,” she wrote to us. Then she attached the following story, which we’re happy to share with you.

When I was a child, there was a saying grown-ups used whenever bored children would whine on rainy days: April Showers bring May Flowers. Now it’s May and the jonquils and tulips on Emmons are entering retirement, so what else does a spring rain bring? Fog.

I love the marina in the early mornings. Pre-dawn is when the neighborhood wears its quietest and most contemplative personality. This morning it was the call of the boats that drew me outside. That long, low tone of the fog horn is one of the most haunting and romanticized sounds in the memories and literature of this wayfaring country. Whether by ocean, lake or river, few in America have lived never having heard this plaintive call which both mourns the past and forges the future with one beautiful, paradoxical note… and there’s nothing America loves better than a good paradox.

The air this morning is magnificently quiet. Half a block away, I can hear water dripping from the leaves in the Holocaust Memorial Park and startling still slumbering sparrows. Like the Irish Hunger Memorial in Manhattan, some of the city’s most beautiful and rejuvenating quiet places are built in remembrance of some of the ugliest and debilitating actions of our human selves – another wonderful paradox. The rumble of a truck bounces high off the apartment buildings as The Daily News makes its appointed rounds. One of my most cherished memories of living in Brooklyn, which may seem quaintly old-fashioned in this technological age, is seeing and hearing the news literally hitting the streets.

Keep reading Whitley’s excellent musings.

Sergei Dovlatov, right, with Peter Vail in New York (1981). Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

We received a press release from our friends at the Shorefront YM-YWHA (3300 Coney Island Avenue, corner of Brightwater Court), including an event scheduled this weekend on September 25:

Starting in September 2011, the recognition of iconic Soviet émigré writer Sergei Dovlatov’s 70-year birthday anniversary will take place in Russia, Estonia, and United States, the places where Sergei Dovlatov lived and worked. Dovlatov, whose work is loved by millions all over the world, lived in New York City after his forceful exile from the Soviet Union in 1979. In New York he found great success, publishing 12 stories in the prestigious magazine “The New Yorker,” 11 books, and receiving the Pen Club Prize in 1986, for best story of the year.

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The writing contest is held in conjunction with the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Ready, set… “write” on!

Borough President Marty Markowitz is reaching out to all of Brooklyn’s high schoolers (high school students attending school in Brooklyn or who live in Brooklyn) to participate in his Sixth Annual “Brooklyn Lit Match” Teen Writing Contest, a student competition held in conjunction with the Brooklyn Book Festival, September 18.

Students are invited to submit stories, poems, essays, spoken word and raps, not exceeding 2,000 words. Entries are due by June 27, and winning submissions will be published in a book. The first place winner will receive a laptop computer.

Keep reading for details.

Cover detail courtesy of

Cover detail courtesy of

Coney Island collides with the world of comic books in Kevin Baker’s Luna Park from Vertigo/DC Comics. The story follows Alik Strelnikov, a Russian mafia “enforcer” and explores parts of the community’s criminal underworld, while also delving into the immigrant experience. The plot periodically flashes back to Alik’s ancestors in Russia and examine how their choices shaped his existence, while Alik navigates his complicated life in the modern day Coney Island with his fortune-telling/prostitute girlfriend Marina. To complicate matters, Alik is having a hard time coming to terms with his military past. Together, Alik and Marina embark on the American Dream, trying to improve their lot in life and escape their situation in Coney Island. In a WSJ Blog the comics’ author Kevin Baker compares Alik to “Jake Gittes in Chinatown or Roy Hobbs in The Natural or even Jay Gatsby.” But to the digital generation [i.e. me], he sounds a lot more like Grand Theft Auto IV’s Niko Bellic or even Nicolas Cage’s Yury Orlov from Lord of War. Either way, this should be a colorful depiction of the historic neighborhood, and certainly not another Brighton Beach Memoirs.