PEN on Twitter

On my blog The Great Gray Bridge, I’ve put up a preview post for visitors to my site and others who may not be familiar with World Voices, or don’t know it’s starting in just a few days. Mentioned the Margaret Atwood and Mona Eltahawy events I’ll be covering the night of May 3. Also, put a plug (below) for PEN in to my post and have shared the whole thing out via Facebook and Twitter. 

«PEN encourages active literary citizenship so if you are a writing or publishing professional, and have been considering getting involved, I suggest you do so. The international and domestic work PEN does on behalf of free expression is extremely effective and important.»

Speaking of Facebook and Twitter, if fellow Festival Correspondents are on FB and/or Twitter, please ‘friend’ or follow me there so we can keep track of one another before and during World Voices. On Fb, you can friend me at ‘Philip Turner,’ ‘like’ my blog The Great Gray Bridge, or on Twitter follow me at @philipsturner. Lilly at PEN has told me the Twitter hashtag we’re using for World Voices is #PENFest12. Thanks. 


Just tweeted this out:

Looking forward to blogging the PEN World Voices Festival tonight covering  and  

which has already been retweeted by .

Next, put this up on Facebook:

Looking forward to blogging the PEN World Voices Festival tonight covering @MargaretAtwood 6-7:30 and @MonaEltahawy 8-9:30 at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium. Come listen if you’re free. Will be posting later to the PEN tumblr and on my blog. Blogging the PEN World Voices Festival April 30-May 6 | The Great Gray Bridge


It makes sense that an established prize-winning author might view social media, new platforms, and the complicated challenges of contemporary publishing with indifference if not disdain. Jonathan Franzen, for example, claims that social media leaves nothing to the imagination. So it was a pleasant surprise to hear Margaret Atwood talk about new technologies with wit, irreverence, curiosity and respect. The new technologies are, after all, human artifacts. We have created them and whether we put them to good use (the light side) or abuse them (the dark side) is entirely up to us

In conversation with Amy Grace Loyd, Executive Editor of Byliner, the two women seemed to be friends in casual conversation at a café. Loyd, in fact, is one of Atwood’s editors—there  were quips about commas—and  Byliner is a relatively new online publication, another testament to Atwood’s innovative approach to her own career. She has a strong business sense and clearly believes that writers should be able to earn a living.

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Photo © Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center

Si comincia con la gag—non importa se volontaria o no—del microfono che non funziona.  Così il pubblico, prevalentemente donne di una certa età, ma anche parecchi virgulti del creative writing alle prime armi, si scalda per il suo ruolo di clac nel corso della ininterrotta raffica di battute che ha riempito la serata.  

L’intervistatrice emetteva a intermittenza strani suoni gutturali che solo a tratti si riconoscevano come tentativi di dire oh yes…right…of course…: non riusciva, o non osava, ma avrebbe voluto, era evidente, tener testa alla Atwood, nella produzione a getto continuo di understatements alla woody allen, con qualche pausa civettuola in più per consentire al pubblico di emettere la sua risata di commento.  

Mi aspettavo chissà quali rivelazioni su come e quando e quanto Margaret Atwood usa i social media, e quali, ma si è parlato solo di Twitter, e comunque mi è piaciuto il tono di demistificante ironia con cui la scrittrice ha voluto smontare ogni illusione sui poteri del web.

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We gathered in a theater looking into the center well of the glassy NYTimes building; the stage was backed by green grass and a white birch forest.

A.L. Scott was an excellent moderator who seemed to enjoy the jousting of these three luminaries. In discussing their Times essays of April 29th on the future of America, they had agreed that Atwood’s was the silliest, involving the views of visiting Martians. In fact, to me this group all seemed to be visiting from their special planets in our literary stratosphere, favoring us with their god-like views.

In discussing their essays, the group moved on to the great American novel. Atwood and Doctorow disagreed about Moby Dick. He felt it could not be merely, or at all, about oil and money, as she viewed it. Amis leaped forward to The Adventures of Augie March as the great American novel. Doctorow and Atwood reached back farther to Twain, and Poe (the latter as the greatest bad writer.)

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This was a mystifying event. In the enormous atrium of NYU’s Bobst Library, we gathered under purple banners to find that our venue was the side of the lobby and some stacks in which we were to wander. So far, so good. We like books and libraries. But when the mash-up began, the questions started to form. What was going on? My companion said it was exactly like a cocktail party at which you know no one and overhear random bursts of talk.

Actors strode among us, their lines scrolling on ipods taped inside “books.” The three books colliding here were The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby, and The Sound and the Fury. (The Elevator Repair Service is well-known for their staging of Gatz.)

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