off the record
We have reached a stage in the life of New York or the life of literature (or both) where a glance at the bio of most contemporary authors inevitably ends with the words “lives in Brooklyn.” Not surprisingly, a literary festival exists to celebrate the borough’s bibliophiles. The Brooklyn Book Festival, which will take place this Sunday, means that many writers won’t even have to get on the subway in order to read aloud and sit on panels in front of enthusiastic readers.
To kick off the literary festivities prior to the literary Festival, Tumblr, Electric Literature, The New Inquiry and the Los Angeles Review of Books threw a party. (Book people love parties.) Shindigger, being notionally bookish ourselves, followed the parade of tote bags until we reached the Williamsburg event space Public Assembly. After getting a temporary tattoo stamped on our inner wrist, we entered the darkened hall.
Shortly after Amazon yanked 5,000 Independent Publishers Group titles off its virtual shelves in a contract dispute, the retail giant offered an olive branch of sorts to the world of letters: a $25,000 grant to the Los Angeles Review of Books, the non-profit online literary review that planted a flag in the scorched earth of Sunday books supplements in 2011.
“It’s a pittance for them,” said Steve Wasserman, former editor of the shuttered Los Angeles Times Book Review, who nonetheless applauded Amazon’s recognition of LARB.
“Criticism is the oxygen of literature,” he said. “I’m happy to see the establishment of something of really grand ambition.”
During his first company-wide meeting two weeks ago, Nick Denton declared that Gawker Media is a technology company, not an editorial one, according to a report published on The Awl. The recasting of the Gawker blog network left at least one current editor scratching his head, but it was clearly a smart strategic message for Mr. Denton to broadcast.
The resurgence of New York media over the past two years has been led by companies whose primary business does not involve words. E-commerce colossus Gilt Groupe and technology and data giants Bloomberg and Reuters lured top legacy media talent to their doors with pre-recession salaries and the sense of relief offered by a company for whom making payroll is not a routine emergency.