Why I Hate Brooklyn Lit: A Dissent


Michael Lindgren is a veteran book reviewer with The L Magazine and has long been a dissenting editorial voice on the subject of the nascent Brooklyn literary scene. We thought our Brooklyn Lit issue was as good a place as any to give him a chance to make his case…

15 Comment

  • A wonderful piece! It can best be appreciated as a reflection of the evolution of literary production. I mean, in the restoration period of English Lit, it was accepted as a matter of course that literary production would centered around the court, and there’s a healthy tradition behind the belief that leisure–privilege– was the necessary condition for the production of art. This shift in the values of literary production that states that to write an authentic literature you need to have worked a cashier in Peoria and appreciate manual labor reflects a change in the status and purpose of art that I find especially hopeful even if a boro must be sacrificed in the process. If Lindgren has lost hope in New York, he’s at least given hope to this New Yorker.

  • I thought all mainstream litratchur in America had become a sort of smart accessory, regardless of where it was spawned? I seem to have read some oh-so-moving passages in some books set in the Midwest where characters felt comfy in their sweaters while driving their pristine SUVs to go pick up the kids and watching the sunlight prism through the raindrops on the windshield while reflecting on the fact that, after all, life isn’t so bad here in the suburbs of Buttfuck. A nice $20 trade paperback about an ordinary person’s struggle to overcome something is the kind of accessory that goes well with a hip pair of smarty clunky-framed eyeglasses in any part of the country. The extra dense fog of irony hanging over Brooklyn probably does arise from self-loathing, I suppose; but, hell, at least in Brooklyn they have the decency to loathe themselves. Do you think Alice Munro is self-aware enough to do that?

  • Now I feel vaguely guilty for having reflexively talked shit about Alice Munro.

  • I have heard that Ms. Munro is vengeful and heavily armed, as well as under-medicated.

  • Case well made for sterility of Brooklyn writers, who are clearly not the 47%! But, what about the writing coming out of Peoria lately?

  • Ariel, I’ll let you know when I get there, by candlelight, natch.

  • Hmmm. It is really kinda something to read an articulation of what was just a sense… a piece that so eloquently brings to clarity something that was heretofore merely a feeling. The reason I do want to read Henry James, rather than cringe and feel embarrassed while reading about a fun day of dealing with self-proclaimed addiction, or emotional residue from an imperfect upbringing. What about something that will expand my horizons…engage my imagination…hardship? Innocence lost? A hefty frame-of reference from an actual life lived? Or something written because one can’t not write but while, with no option, living a Peoria life that the privileged Brooklynites need not live, and are therefor ironically free (to try) to write about.

  • This piece is funny, but it makes no sense. We’re privileged because we live in Brooklyn? The rent’s expensive as hell, I’ll grant you that, which is why half of us moved to Queens. If we’re still here it’s because we happen to like living here, because it’s an interesting place to live. We struggle to get by with a combination of advances/royalties (and if you think those payments add up to a privileged life, you try making a living in literary fiction) and dead-end day jobs. You can write us off as not knowing anything about the real world because we live in Brooklyn, but a) that makes no sense and b) it’s not like any of us are from here. We know how the rest of the country lives, because, well, that’s where we’re from. We go home to Peoria for Christmas. We came to New York City because we were drawn to it, and then we got priced out of Manhattan just like everyone else did.

  • Whenever I hear people talking about Brooklyn lit, I start thinking of that Monty Python episode where a contest is staged to come up with insulting ways to refer to Belgians: One contestant says, ‘let’s not call them anything, let’s just ignore them’ another says “I think of anything more derogatory than Belgians.’ Anyway, funny post.

  • There is nothing more “real” about going to church and watching football all day, but if that’s what you want, please do move to Peoria. Your heart too will beat ever more savagely as you settle into the customary obesity.

  • The piece was funny but suggesting that sports and church are “absent from the minds” of all or even most people who live in Brooklyn goes beyond hyperbole and into the realm of the absurd.

  • Yo Yo Pa, I’m down to 201 (from a high of 214), partly because my girlfriend makes me eat celery and fruit during football, rather than more traditional high-fat, high-salt fare. Your point about what is more “real” is well taken, though. Should I move to Illinois you will be welcome to visit me any time. /ml

  • Well done. And thanks for the invite.

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