|Joyce Carol Oates|
To give you the feel of the PEN festival I offer a description of one program, a strikingly successful & alluring one, indeed.
|New Writing from Japan|
|Writer - Hideo Furukawa|
|Prize-winning writer - Toh EnJoe|
Note: Admission to this event included a complimentary copy of the latest issue (#4) of Monkey Business. Earlier issues were on sale (discounted for attendees) in the Asia Society's shop, AsiaStore. One back issue (#1) includes Furukawa's lengthy, complete & comprehensive interview (entitled "Pursuing 'Growth'") with the acclaimed fiction writer, Haruki Murakami!
The program - entitled, simply, "A Tribute to Bernard Malamud" - was organized by the young novelist, Boris Fishman, who assembled a panel of distinguished writers, reviewers, critics, editors & "old friends" to reminisce & reflect on various aspects of Malamud's work and dedication to his craft & his students. Fishman's panel offered up personal anecdotes & commentary on a wide swath of Malamud's output (over 50+ prolific years of writing & teaching) ... focusing on such major works as The Fixer, The Natural, and the story, "Rembrandt's Hat."
In organizing & moderating this Malamud tribute, Fishman, according to Center for Fiction publicity, decided to repay "a debt to an author who taught him perhaps more than any other" as he worked on his own debut novel (entitled A Replacement Life, out in June). The diverse group appearing on the panel featured: Alan Cheuse (writer & NPR books reviewer); Philip Davis (Malamud's biographer & editor of the 3-volume Library of America - Complete Malamud); Clark Blaise ("owner of 'Bern's' Smith-Corona electric," author of 25 books, and long-time Malamud friend & confidante); Liesl Schillinger (New York-based critic & translator, enamored of The Fixer and the "male-female dynamics" found therein); Téa Obreht (a fiction writer moved, or provoked, by "Rembrandt's Hat"); Bharati Mukherjee (author of eight novels and numerous essays on immigration & American culture, and Malamud friend, "disciple," devotee); and Malamud's grandson, Paul Malamud, who revealed via anecdote, a variety of thoughts & feelings about his grandfather, the Malamud family, and Malamud's essentially humble origin & equally humble but dignified nature.
Philip Davis reflected on all aspects of Malamud, the writer, and the individual in the context of the works. Clark Blaise reminisced about speaking with Malamud on their walks in Bennington "which always started with a visit to Robert Frost's grave." But the anecdote related by Alan Cheuse - concerning how Malamud once paid a traffic ticket for Cheuse when he was caught rolling through a stop sign one night on his way to a party at Malamud's home - revealed Malamud's notion of friendship and genuine goodness.
This recent May event, hosted by The Center for Fiction and deftly moderated by Mr. Fishman - celebrating the life & work of an American "master" of the form of fiction - will surely be identified by attendees and etched in their memories as one truly magical evening! Indeed, my wife and I will certainly recall the evening that prompted us to return to Malamud's multifarious Collected Stories ... stories which reflect, according to Cynthia Ozick, "suffering, loneliness, lust, confinement, defeat ... [which] tremble with subterranean fragility ... in [a] voice ... unlike any other." (The New York Times)
√ Not exactly a footnote: After having attended the Monkey Business program at Asia Society (on Park Ave., the upper East Side), we and two other couples were scheduled to meet for an early dinner at good restaurant (89 Greenwich Avenue; situated near Bank St., a short walk down from 8th Avenue; tel. 212/691-8080). Good is described as an "eclectic eatery" serving what they identify as "modern American" cuisine. And so we chose to sample their menu, well, as "eclectically" as we were able, given 6 diners ... and why not? We ordered a Heidler Gruner Veltliner, a medium dry yet fruity white wine (@ $39; & a 2nd bottle a bit later with our mains). Surely the rich soils & steep slopes of Austria's Kamptal region have contributed to what one wine aficionado designated an "interesting, texturally compelling wine." We all thought so, too, hence the purchase of that 2nd bottle!
|good restaurant - interior shot|
|Escarole & farro salad w/pecorino & vinaigrette|
|Overnight roasted Hampshire pork|
|Bread pudding w/vanilla ice cream & caramel syrup|
Desserts - the final course on the special prix-fixe diner - were, on the whole, sweet, varied, rich, creamy & abundant: my favorite consisted in the warm banana chocolate chip bread pudding, with vanilla ice cream & caramel syrup; a strong runner up must have been the Key lime pie panna cotta, pistachio cake, further complemented with lime sorbet & berries. The coffee served - enjoyed by the 1/2 of our party who ordered it - was dark, rich & robust ... a perfect accompaniment for the rich desserts we had chosen for our finale! Of the three remaining diners, one ordered a double (dark!) espresso, another a latte, and the third selected an herbal tea.
The early evening dinner for six at good lasted about 90 minutes (or so) and went as smoothly as could be done with one couple heading for an off-Broadway show (not far way) and another heading down to the Film Forum to see Ida, a complex & somewhat emotionally sterile (at best neutral) new Polish film that has received a good amount of attention.