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Carol Bergman is a journalist whose feature articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The Daily News, The Amsterdam News, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Child, and many other publications. She is the author of two film biographies (Mae West, Sidney Poitier), a memoir, “Searching for Fritzi,” and the ghost of Captain Kangaroo’s autobiography, “Growing Up Happy.” Her creative nonfiction and literary fiction has appeared in Aim, Willow Review, Onionhead, Potpourri, The Bridge, and other literary journals in the US and the UK. “Objects of Desire,” published in Lilith and Whetstone, was nominated for the 1999 Pushcart Prize in nonfiction. “Another Day in Paradise; Frontline Stories From International Aid Workers,” with a foreword by John le Carré, was published by Orbis Books (US) and Earthscan Books (UK) in October, 2003. Her most recent books are a murder mystery, “Say Nothing,” and two books of novellas, “Sitting for Klimt,” and “Water Baby.” She teaches writing at New York University.

I’ve been attending the Festival since it began and always feel excited as it approaches. I’ve volunteered before, this year as a reporter, as my teaching term at NYU is just about over and I’ll have time.  A whole week in the presence of writers from all over the world seems the perfect way to refuel, to get my own creative juices flowing again. I always feel a strange resentment at the end of term: my students are writing a lot and I am not.

I plan to get down to Westbeth on Saturday to observe one of the Processional Arts Workshops and sincerely hope that we have pitch perfect weather for the Highline event on Monday.

I think the Parade of Illumination on the Highline launching the World Voices Festival was only in my writer’s imagination. I couldn’t find it. Chilly up there. Then I met the editorial staff of the Wild River Review and we had our own parade, back and forth for a half hour, talking and walking, trying to warm up. We still couldn’t find the beginning, middle or end of the procession. Any thoughts PEN organizers?


As this correspondent had to be out of town, she asked MacKay Wolff, a contributor to her book “Another Day in Paradise; International Humanitarian Workers Tell Their Stories,” if he could get over to CUNY for most of this event. A UN worker, Arabist, and former speechwriter to Kofi Annan, Mr. Wolff also writes fiction and essays. He filed this report:

Only four years separate the birthdates of playwrights Lasha Bugadze and Laila Soliman, yet the revolutions that both lived through in their native countries –he in Georgia, she in Egypt– occurred more than a decade apart. The time that’s passed since those changes of regime, time both actual and psychic, has led them to produce two markedly different “revolutionary plays.”  

Bugadze’s Iced Tea, in its first performance in any language, gathers a trio of past and present Georgian presidents to muse over politics and life. The men seem to be under a form of house arrest that feels as much like heaven as earth –they gaze down on their subjects as much as they do back towards them. The leaders are joined by their wives, who bring to the proceedings a dose of domesticity as potent, and as disaffected, as the political forces that shape them all.  The particular energy of this work is in the friction between these two worlds: one of (authoritarian) state power; the other of lust, alcohol and marital bitterness.

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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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I arrived at the dialogue session without any expectations as—dare I admit it—I have not read any of Jennifer Egan’s books.  I think she would have approved of my open spirit as I listened to her answer questions about craft and non-linear musical structure.  Unlike Dickens, Irving, and others, she has no idea where she is going when she begins and doesn’t much care about classical form. One story in her new book, “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” is written in power point.

 Is she supremely self-confident? A renegade? Having won prizes—the Pulitzer, the National Book Award—Egan’s apparent self-confidence might be understandable if it were not an illusion even to herself. “I have a catastrophic imagination,” she said. That woke me up and also sounded familiar.  So, too, her decision to dedicate “A Visit From the Goon Squad,”  to her therapist.

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