Something to Celebrate: PEN New Members Party
Nothing takes the discontent out of winter like a good Brooklyn literary party, and Wednesday night’s New Members/New Books party hosted by PEN America was no exception. powerHouse Arena was packed to the fire code limit with writers, editors, publishers, agents, and overburdened coat racks. PEN throws this party every year in honor of (you guessed it) its newest members—all 376 of them!—and books recently born into the world.
The program was short and sweet. Paul Morris, looking sharp as usual, welcomed the crowd, and each of the event’s co-hosts followed with some kind words about PEN. A few were heartfelt, like Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang and writer Mitchell Jackson—the latter made a direct connection between his autobiographical novel The Residue Years and the PEN Prison Writing Program. Others were equal parts earnest and hilarious, like, of course, Gary Shteyngart. “I grew up in a totalitarian society where I was not allowed to express myself,” he said. “I’m talking about Hebrew school in Queens!” And hey! B.J. Novak was there, in support of his new short story collection One More Thing. “It’s an honor to be here accepting the PEN/Faulkner award,” he deadpanned, to much giggling. Maybe one day, B.J.
Just like that, we were left to the open bar and photobooth. Inexplicably, but to great glee, there were magicians doing card tricks on the upper level. Stephen Elliott was taking audio clips for a current Kickstarter through his iPhone. The night’s playlist—curated by Lena Dunham, no less—featured Miss Miley Cyrus and the B-52s in the same ten minutes. It was business as usual, but with a little sparkle. A good omen of things to come this year in lit.