Monday, October 8, 2007

The New Yorker Festival

After spending the last few days participating in a number of events at the New Yorker Festival, I have emerged with a few stray thoughts:
  • George Saunders is as funny and interesting in person as he is in print. Friday night he repeatedly brought the house down at the Angel Orensanz theatre in his conversation with Jonathan Safran Foer on "The Incredible." I was delighted to hear him talk about Donald Barthelme's "The School," particularly after having dedicated a post to Bartheleme just days before. Saunders had some very interesting things to say about writing fiction as a line-by-line, nuts and blots process that I found extremely illuminating. Plus, I met him and he's an incredibly nice guy!
  • Andy Borowitz is a truly gifted wit. After giving a comedic presentation on Saturday morning, he asked the audience if they had any questions, about literally anything at all. As people asked him questions about Hillary Clinton, the new Radiohead album ("I think that this might not be the best question for this crowd. Let's talk about it on Facebook later, I'll 'poke' you"), and the Cleveland Indians, he was killing with everything he said. He seemed like the absolutely perfect bar companion. I'm still reeling, though, from the fact that he created the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." I wonder if he also wrote the iconic opening theme song?
  • People really, really want to win the weekly New Yorker caption contest. The place was sold-out for NY'er cartoon editor Robert Mankoff's event. Did you know that they get 15,000 submissions for it every week? I could never take the contest that seriously after the skewering they got by these two different McSweeney's articles. That said, I'm always interested in finding out how any style of humor works from an expert and it was definitely nice as well to hear a little bit about the drawing style of my favorite author/illustrator, James Thurber.
  • Although I know that umbrage has been taken with the festival's self-congratulatory nature, that was just not the case at any of the events I was at. The audience seemed geniunely excited to be there and the hosts and speakers (especially Henry Alford at the Parlor Games event on Saturday), really seemed to make a concerted effort to engage and entertain their audience.
It really made me happy to see so many people show up for such a wide variety of events. Although I've never been a fatalist about literature and think people overestimate its decline within our culture, it was really fantastic to see such a wide mix of people show up regardless of the type of event. Who knew that about 15 German college students would flock to a 10 AM Andy Borowitz event? Or that a similar mix of people will spend $25 to play New Yorker-related Parlor Games on a Saturday night? (well, actually, I would totally do that one). Overall, it was a great reminder of exactly why you put up with all the annoyances that living in New York brings.

1 comment:

Todd said...

Now that I think about it, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air must have been my primary exposure to the world of hip-hop. At least, it's where I learned the phrase, "Yo homes, smell ya later!"

Speaking of which, did you know that DJ Jazzy Jeff has a new album out? And that he still goes by that moniker?