We will be participating in the wonderful, vibrant Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 18th! Our offerings include:
He came to see Bettie, not me. Everyone did. The poster of 50′s pinup Bettie Page and her male counterpart drew a lot of people to our booth at the Brooklyn Book Festival.
Unlike the little old lady who went on about the size and shape of male thighs, Tim McLoughlin didn’t seem to be a lost soul. He mentioned a link to Akashic Books, but I was setting up and didn’t pay attention. Till he said he was behind the Noir mystery series.
That was huge. I love anything noir; it’s practically a religion with me. Tall silent men and slinky dames, dark plots that unfold in gritty urban settings where shadows lurk and doom waits around every corner. Think fate was just for Oedipus and the ancient Greeks? Check out the death-by-phone-wire scene in Detour, or watch Kathie Moffat glide Out of the Past back into Jeff Bailey’s life. If that doesn’t do it, there’s always Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark in a thrilling debut) pushing a wheelchair-bound cripple down stairs in Kiss of Death. Noir is a dark street on the wrong side of town where people, backed against the wall, confront the worst of human nature.
Though the film cycle died out in the early 60s, elements linger on in American culture like mutant spores. When McLoughlin returned bearing his novel, Heart of the Old Country, I assumed there would be traces, and there are. But like West Side Story and On the Waterfront, it’s really a poignant coming of age tale set in the rough environs of New York.
Like the divided blocks of the Jets and Sharks, and the docks and tenements that mark the outer limits of Terry Malloy’s world, the low-rent, thug-rich sections of south Brooklyn play a major role in the story. The turf is small and specific: the back streets of Coney Island and rundown parts of Bay Ridge where the trains don’t go, but car service does.
At the start, the main character, Mikey, is living at home with his widowed dad, trying to sort out his future. He’s not quite sold on the education he’s getting at NYU, nor is his father who finds him a job at the local car service.
Big Lou’s isn’t the high tech, hail-with-an-app realm of Uber. Run from a storefront, it survives on three dollar jobs: seniors traveling to medical appointments and numbers men hopping from bar to bar. The drivers are two-bit losers who crack dirty and wile away time playing cards. Two things matter: money and the “little…triangle” (lady parts, not Euclid). It’s a world so small and flat if you drive to the edge you might fall off, and Mikey very nearly does.
He’s slow to grasp the soul-destroying web of Lou’s illicit courier service, thinking that easy money comes with no strings and he can play Lou’s game on his own terms. He can’t. Like the 50′s classic, Kiss Me Deadly, there’s a mysterious sought-after box that keeps the reader guessing till the very end. Mikey snags it, though he should know better, having seen the rough justice dished out to local flunky, Nicky Shades.
Like Tony and Maria, Terry and Edie, Mikey knows more about what he’s running from than what he’s running to. He yearns for a different place with opportunity and choice, but can’t quite picture it. Yet slowly, as he threads his way through illicit jobs and rigid social expectations, it comes into focus and he begins to find the pieces of his true self.
As the world of Bay Ridge shrinks, a new one begins to form around his NYU classmate, Kathy Popovich. Neither brilliant nor wildly beautiful, she’s a decent girl with creative leanings not from the neighborhood, which is part of her charm. If it is not quite the mythic, forever after love of Tony and Maria, it opens a door to a place where relationships are based more on similar interests than shared geography.
With Kathy, Mikey experiences a sense of freedom and possibility, not the entrapment he feels with Gina, the girl he grew up with and is expected to marry. With Gina, the future is laid out and very similar to the past: shopping trips on Fifth Avenue (Brooklyn, not Manhattan), visits to relatives on Staten Island (“fun as a root canal”), with career options for Mikey that include Sanitation. In her mother’s house, an apartment waits for the couple like a cell.
Though the book flies, its sense of time is gritty and real; there will be no quick fix. The hero’s journey will be an extended one, marked by small, hard-won understandings rather than a single mind-blowing epiphany. True to life and literary form, it ends not with false promise, but on a small note of possibility. Alone in his car, trying to find Nicky Shades’ girl to do a good deed, Mikey reaches for a pen and pad. Supposedly he’s checking a list, but it’s tempting, knowing the author’s story, to imagine that one day he will use that pen for a more creative purpose.
Tim McLoughlin was born in Sunset Park, and like his hero grew up in Bay Ridge. But with good choices and a sense of purpose, he slipped away from the old country which is as much a state of mind as actual place. The small-time world of South Brooklyn found its way into his work, but never defined him. He is a man of his own destiny, and talking with him, you get the sense of a life well-lived and deeply enjoyed.
Early on, McLoughlin cycled through jobs that included stints as a driver, Barnes & Noble clerk (main branch), and patrolman at the transit yards in East New York and Coney Island. After long nights and strange hours, he leapt at the chance to become a court officer, which turned into a long-term gig. The work was good and he made some smart investments along the way, but in his heart wanted something more.
He had always read widely and voraciously, his love of literature kindled not by two years spent at NYU, but by the Jesuit teachers at Xavier High. Slowly and secretly he began to write. His early goals were small: to get a few short stories published in a literary magazine. Good writing meant sounding like the New Yorker; he had not yet plumbed his inner landscape or found his own voice. That took time and a “drill sergeant” teacher, Kaylie Jones. McLoughlin signed up for her class at the West Side Y, sensing that the other instructors were too “warm and fuzzy” to be any good. He auditioned with a sci-fi piece, learning later he was accepted mainly to balance the otherwise female group. It worked out well: one of the students, a “cute blonde,” became his wife.
On the page he struggled, unwilling to ditch his high brow illusions. But at some point sense and his natural voice prevailed, and out popped a couple of stories that ultimately became part of Heart of the Old Country. Jones’ response: “where the fuck has this been?”
Inside, all along. They went out for beer at an Irish bar. She gave encouragement, and the work bloomed. Sections were published in Confrontation Magazine, and the manuscript was bought by Johnny Temple for Akashic. The Italian rights sold fast, and in 2003, that very old country gave McLoughlin its Premio Penne award.
Which brings us back to the Noir series which was conceived as a way to get Johnny Temple off his case. They were walking around BEA, with the publisher pressing him about a second novel. McLoughlin countered with the idea for an anthology of original stories. They settled on the concept of noir, press-ganged Pete Hamill into writing a piece, and never looked back.
The series features greats like Dennis Lehane (Boston Noir), as well as talented unknowns, and has spread from New York to exotic locales like Manila and Mumbai. There is always a keen sense of place combined with plots that honor the dark essence of noir.
With those going strong, maybe it’s time to ask again about that second book. (Note to Johnny: start nagging and this time don’t stop.)
– Catherine Kirkpatrick
(Bettie Page: Queen of Curves and Beefcake are books by Petra Mason about historic pinups of the 1950s. She is also the author of Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom. Other photographs ©Catherine Kirkpatrick.)
Yesterday was a great day for the kingdom of Brooklyn and the kingdom of books. All kinds of readers, writers and artists descended on Borough Hall in search of wonderful stuff at the Brooklyn Book Festival. And wonderful stuff there was–everything from Tugboats of New York to the young adult Do You Know Who You Are?, with large and small presses, authors who’ve sold millions of books, and newcomers with a single volume. They all shared one thing: a love of books. Maybe they published them, maybe they wrote or illustrated them, maybe they read them, but they all turned out for them and that is a glorious thing.
There was something for the literary-minded and the visually inclined, for old time New Yorkers and curious tweens. Parents brought their kids, browsed, chatted with writers and booksellers and exchanged ideas. Noted author James McBride happened by our section. I said I was reading his novel The Good Lord Bird (a new take on John Brown), along with Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 classic Gone With the Wind–two very dissimilar books on the South and Civil War. All he did was raise an eyebrow and say: “a different perspective.”
Which is what great culture is all about: ideas, talent, freedom, and exchange. So three cheers for the borough where so much is happening, for Janet Matthews and the dedicated people who put the festival together, and most of all for those who quietly, without promise of reward, write, illustrate, photograph and produce those magical, life-changing things we call books. Here’s to you!
On Sunday, September 21st the New York Book Society will be a part of the Brooklyn Book Festival! We will share table #309 with the Bushwick Daily and photographer Meryl Meisler, whose recent press includes an article by the New Yorker where New York Book Society founder, Catherine Kirkpatrick, is quoted. Here are some of the unique books we will feature:
Backstage: Broadway Behind the Curtain
Rivka Katvan is world-reknowned for her photographic studies of the Broadway theatre, as seen in her recent Abrams’ book, Backstage: Broadway Behind the Curtain. She has also donated photographs to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which, according to Tom Viola, Executive Director, have raised more than $120,000 for the nonprofit organization. She has won numerous awards and acclaim for her projects and exhibits, and with her husband, Moshe, runs a state-of-the-art photo studio in Manhattan.
On the Beat
Jane Hoffer is a New York photographer who documented the first female NYPD officers on patrol. This project, which included a night at the “Fort Appache” precinct in the Bronx, was exhibited in 2011 at the New York City Police Museum and the subject of an article on the Professional Women Photographers’ website that was named by PhotoShelter to its List of Best Photography Blog Posts of 2011. Jane attended McGill University, and holds an advanced degree in art from Columbia University, with additional training at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography. With over 20 years experience in commercial photography, she is recognized as a leading photographer in the non-profit and public relations industries. She exhibits her fine art work frequently.
Gays in the Military
Vincent Cianni is a documentary photographer whose work has been exhibited widely, including shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, George Eastman House, with a major survey at the Museum of the City of New York in 2006.
His landmark Gays in the Military (Daylight Books, May 2014) is told through photographs and interviews made over three years on road trips across the United States. This oral and visual history tells the stories of gay and lesbian men and women who served their country in silence, and will be archived at the David M. Rubestein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. It is also available as an exhibition and multi-media installation.
Coney Island and Harlem Street Portraits
Harvey Stein is a photographer, lecturer, author and curator based in New York City. He teaches at the International Center of Photography, and has also taught at the School of Visual Arts, New School University, Drew University, and Rochester Institute of Technology. His books including Parallels: A Look at Twins, Artists Observed, Coney Island, Movimento: Glimpses of Italian Street Life, Coney Island 40 Years, and Harlem Street Portraits. He is currently Director of Photography at the Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan’s East Village.
Mary Teresa Giancoli is a New York photographer with a deep interest in exploring Spanish Culture. Her Mujeres Poblanas features her images of the women and life around the marketplace and festivals in Puebla, Mexico, the region that sends the most migrants to Brooklyn and the tri-state area. Also featured are images from Mexican dances and customs as lived in homes, work and on the street in New York City. Giancoli has a BA in Italian Culture from Wellesley College and an MFA in photography from Hunter. Her work combines a lush visual style with an almost anthropological interest in the customs of the Spanish communities she documents.
Blood & Beauty
Pamela Greene spent several years photographing Manhattan’s Meatpacking District as it was becoming hot. She took it in with a compassionate eye, capturing the sense of passing history and new history being made, the mix of wild bohemians, working class people, fashion designers, hot young things and nouveau riche who flocked there every day. In 120 vivid color photographs, she captures the energy in the street, the trendy boutiques and clubs, the businesses that had been there for generations and were slowly but surely fading away. In 2009, this work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Show Walls Gallery of the Durst Corporation.
Bacalaitos & Fireworks
Arlene Gottfried is a well-known New York photographer who has freelanced for top publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Life, and The Independent in London. Her work has exhibited at the Leica Gallery in New York and in Tokyo, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and has images in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Berenice Abbott International Competition of Women’s Documentary Photography. Gottfried is the author of Bacalaitos & Fireworks (powerHouse Books, 2011), Sometimes Overwhelming (powerHouse Books, 2008), Midnight (powerHouse Books, 2003) and The Eternal Light (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1999). A lecturer and a teacher, Gottfried lives and works in New York City.
What Might It Mean?
Nancy Garniez’s artistic life spans many styles, centuries, venues, and activities, from performing and teaching, to writing and recording. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Arts, Phi Beta Kappa, from Oberlin College, with a concentration in organ under Fenner Douglass. Under a Fulbright grant she studied organ with Helmut Walcha in Frankfurt am Main. Subsequent piano study was with Hans Neumann at the Mannes College of Music.
For many years Nancy performed solo piano and ensemble recitals annually at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, as well as throughout Europe. She is currently presenting in-house solo recitals in series centered on such themes as “Bach and Sons: Listening for the Future.” Her 3 unedited live-performance solo CDs available for purchase at www.tonalrefraction.com.
She is also an author whose works include What Might It Mean? An Uncommon Glossary of Musical Terms and Concepts for the Stuck, Bored, and Curious, and Tone Perception Visualized: The Mozart G minor Piano Quartet, 2013 with state of the art digital graphics.
The Brooklyn Book Festival will take place on
Sunday, September 21st
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at:
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall
R to Court Street
A, C, F to Jay Street/Borough Hall
By Car from Manhattan:
Coming over the Brooklyn Bridge
Stay Straight on Adams Street
Turn Right on Joralemon Street
Edison Park East, 134 Schermerhorn Street, 718-246-0367
Central Parking (No trucks), 333 Adams Street, 718-222-1032
Livingston Street Parking (No trucks), 111 Livingston Street, 718-855-1180
(Daily Rates Vary)