- Writers generally hate to get on in years, because they’re soulless cowards who fear death. (I say this with authority, even at age thirty.) One good thing about getting older, though, is that you can sell your papers—you know, all that junk that records your “process.” Phillip Lopate was looking forward to cleaning house, but the process, he discovered, was more injurious than it seemed from afar: “For years I had been hearing of people selling their papers, and often these writers were, in my humble judgment, no better practitioners of the literary art than I—indeed, in some cases, inferior! How did they do it? … In due course I was approached by a bookseller who handled such transactions, which suddenly made it a concrete, attractive possibility. He contacted the New York Public Library, a logical place for my papers, given my lifelong involvement with the city of my birth, and two representatives from that estimable institution came to my house to examine the lot … In preparation for the librarians’ visit, I had laid out letters, manuscripts, and diaries on the kitchen table and in boxes all about the room. I tried to steer these two examiners, a man and woman, to what I thought might be juicy bits, but their blank emotionless faces (so like those of funders or oncologists, who don’t want to get your hopes up) gave away nothing, and after two hours of idly sifting through the records of a lifetime’s labor, they departed.”
Last week, the waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, was one of the areas shattered by superstorm Sandy. On Wednesday, November 14, join host Kurt Andersen; musicians Steve Earle and Stew; novelists Joseph O’Neill, Sam Lipsyte, and Rivka Galchen; nonfiction luminaries Phillip Lopate, Chuck Klosterman, Philip Gourevitch, Meghan O’Rourke, Deborah Baker, Robert Sullivan, and others for Defiance: A Literary Benefit to Rebuild Red Hook. Readings will center on the themes of recovery and rebuilding, drawing on more than two centuries of literature about the historic neighborhood.
The event takes its name from Fort Defiance, the revolutionary-era citadel that once loomed over Red Hook, keeping ferry routes clear for General George Washington’s Continental Army. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the evening will be divided between two nonprofit organizations that are leading Red Hook’s post-Sandy recovery, Red Hook Initiative and Restore Red Hook. Learn more and buy tickets here.