On writing in Brooklyn


As you may have heard, all the writers are in Brooklyn these days. It’s the place to be. You’re simply not a writer if you don’t live here. Google “brooklyn writer” and you’ll get, Did you mean: the future of literature as we know it? People are coming in from all over. In fact, the physical act of moving your possessions from Manhattan to Brooklyn is now the equivalent of a two-year M.F.A. program. When you get to the other side, they hand you three Moleskine notebooks and a copy of “Blogging for Dummies.” You’re good to go.

There was the famous case of the language poet from Red Hook who grew despondent when the Shift key on her MacBook broke. She couldn’t write for weeks. Overcome by melancholy humors, she jumped into the enchanted, glowing waters of the Gowanus Canal, her pockets full of stones. And … she was cured! The metaphors came rushing back. With eccentric spacing between the letters, but still. Now you see people jumping off the Union Street Bridge all the time. They scramble out in a hurry, trying to get home before they forget the first lines of their memoirs. Their hair falls out, but that’s the price you pay for artistic creation.

Every couple of years, I’ll ask a friend or two to read a manuscript, and it happens. You can see it in their eyes. “I hope it’s better than his last one. Or at least shorter.” I know what they’re thinking because that’s what I’m thinking when they ask me. “How much is this friendship worth, in terms of page count?”

Colson Whitehead


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