Brooklyn Was Mine

Emily’s contributor copies of Brooklyn Was Mine arrived. It’s such a beautiful book! And I had no idea where the title came from, but there it is, under our boot-soles, in the book’s epigraph:

What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not— distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine…

—Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

Book sales support Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a noble and deserving cause. The press release on the DDDB site also has information about a couple readings scheduled in January.

Starting Out in the Evening

One thing that’s lost in the transition from excellent book to excellent film: great paragraphs like this:

‘Can we lie down?’ she said, and thereby murdered his illusion that she couldn’t make a false step. He didn’t want to lie down. He felt so spent, so old. This young woman was offering him a gift; she was astonishingly kind; he thought of friends of his, other men in their late sixties or seventies, who simply wouldn’t believe him if he told them about all this. Could he ever tell them that a lovely young woman had offered herself to him and that he’d been less than elated? The fact was that he wished she weren’t there. He wished he were alone in bed, reading Daniel Deronda.

The feel of the scenes is almost always preserved—Lauren Ambrose and Frank Langella are fantastic actors, both in line delivery and in gesture—but the specific kick of that last line! It’s a pleasure for reading only, isn’t it?

One thing that’s gained: There are two readings in the film, both shot, if I’m not mistaken, at the 92nd Street Y. At the first, the text that the actor playing its ostensible author is reading is from the novel itself; i.e., what Schiller, the aging novelist, early in the movie, is listening to is Brian Morton’s description of Schiller, late in the book, rising up and out of his old, spent body, looking back down at himself lying in a hospital bed.

I didn’t recognize the text that Joie Lee reads in the second scene at the Y—but perhaps it’s also from the novel?

(Addendum: I asked Brian, and he replied that yes, it is. What do you even call this? A trans-genre Borgesian wink?)

Also gained: Eric Ozawa’s brilliant, uncredited performance in the party scene!

See also. (Via.)

How the Reading Went

Oh, man! I neglected to provide the details that I promised before I would post anon. I think I was thinking—if I was thinking at all—that, since the two of you who I know actually visit this page with any kind of frequency (hi Jess! hi Eric!) don’t actually live anywhere near Kingston, would it make a difference? And would anyone turn out for a reading at a gallery in the Rondout on a Friday evening in the snow? The answer to that second question turned out to be a resounding yes: the inaugural reading of the new Friends of Dorothy series at KMOCA (possible tagline: “the gayest non-gay reading series in the Northeast”) was packed; Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang’s story was sad and great; and I read “Instructions for Reading Your Work in Public,” “The One-Room MFA Program,” and “A Note about This Business with the Bear.” That second story is a new one—I borrowed the title (with permission) from a joke my fellow NYU alum Robin Beery made in class one time. I’m not sure if the piece works on the page; it seems to benefit greatly from being read out loud in an attempted approximation of the voice of Foghorn Leghorn. But, you know, it’s out there, so we’ll see.