There were drinks and conversation aplenty Friday night in
About a hundred people crowded into a performance space in downtown San Francisco to hear comments from people like David Ulin, the editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Oscar Villalon, the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, Jennifer Reese, a book critic for Entertainment Weekly, David Kipen, the NEA Director of Literature/BIG READ, Sandy Dijkstra, the literary agent, and authors Michelle Richmond, Greg Sarris, and Andrew Sean Greer, among others.
It was an attempt by the NBCC to broaden its reach and become less New York-centric. On Saturday, for the first time in its history, the NBCC will announce the finalists for its awards from City Lights Bookstore in
The group tried to engage themselves and the audience in the question of whether the West Coast is driving American literature. Presumably, since the West was once the frontier and people still gravitate here to remake themselves, the literature they produce is more forward-looking and innovative than that produced in
As provocative as that notion is, the panelists couldn’t agree on its truth.
Jennifer Reese characterized the West Coast as a “goofy, artsy” place that is not “caught up in the intense noise of the literary community of
Ellen Heltzel of Bookbabes lives in
Andrew Sean Greer, the author of Max Tivoli said writers living in
Mary Ann Gwinn, the book editor of the Seattle Times, said readers on the West Coast are more adventurous, which means writers are more adventurous.
The panelists tried hard not to reduce the discussion to an “Us versus
The evening brought out lots of published and aspiring writers and the networking was intense. Mark Sarvas, the blogger behind The Elegant Variation and the author of the forthcoming novel, Harry, Revised, flew up from
Kemble Scott, author of Soma and the editor of the SoMa Literary Review came, as did New York Times reporter Neil MacFarquhar, author of the novel The Sand Café. Daniel Schifrin, the former director of literary programs for the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, showed up. He has just been appointed “writer in residence” for the new Contemporary Jewish Museum in
One last note: The participants from the first panel on emerging writers were asked to name some writers to look out for. Here are some of their suggestions:Suzanne Kleid of City Lights Books recommended Cane Hayward’s memoir of growing up in the 1970s, The Hypocrisy of Disco.
Michelle Richmond recommended Meg Waite Clayton’s forthcoming novel, The Wednesday Sisters.