North Brooklyn literati face a nightly dilemma. Although the area is an internationally recognized youth mecca for music and the visual arts, NYC lit culture remains a decidedly bourgeois, button-down affair, with dual centers of gravity persisting downtown and in South Brooklyn. (Eww – $16 cocktails and seas of Clarks ankle boots. Eww – G train.)
Last Saturday evening, The Bushwick Review launched its sixth issue at area stalwart Molasses Books (770 Hart St) among a crowd of 50+ cramming between shelves of small press offerings and signed copies of John Ashbery’s collected works. Journal founder Kristen Felicetti promotes the project as both a community and platform for local artists, but the issue also includes pieces from writers and artists outside the immediate area, including Colorado, LA, and Berlin.
That said, this issue’s offerings have a distinctly Bushwick flavor commensurate with the green cans of Genesee the audience was observed to consume. Not least of which included Kristen’s own loving review of Morgan stop bodega L-Mo’s Market, which keeps her fed and her pantry stocked whether she’s “drunk, hungover, in sickness [or] in health.”
Likewise, reader Kait Heacock’s piece “Hometown,” a nostalgic elegy on her hometown of Yakima, WA, notes the perversely similar experience of loss one can feel as much in small town America as in New York City: “Remember that time at McGuire’s? At Bert’s? Yeah, me neither. The bookstores closed down, but more banks keep opening up.”
But if you were out for something closer to the grime of your (current) home, there was Mitchell Kuga’s wonderful “Frank Ocean Fan Fiction,” easily the best example of the emerging form of fictional narratives of aborted one-night-stands with the queer-identified, Grammy-winning R&B singer.
But past the commonplace fantasy of hooking up with the sexy and famous in a Brooklyn club, in Kuga’s story we find a reflexive representation of the typically defensive stance New Yorkers take in defending their choice to live in a – well, frankly (no pun intended) ugly – place:
“You ever been to L.A.?” [said Frank]. “It’s a weird shiny bubble; oppressive sunshine; ephemeral. But the palm trees, the open highways at 2am. . .”
“L.A Is pretty but everyone seems kind of desperate. Or at least people here are better at hiding it,” I said, striking a typical New York pose.
“Okay Woody Allen. That’s such a typical New York pose.”
This is the quintessential literary expression of the young and hungry: trying to Make It while just Getting By; wondering if maybe it’s all just a big mistake and you shouldn’t be somewhere sunnier and nicer-smelling; figuring out your own place in the aesthetic narrative shaped by Big Names dead and living.
The Bushwick Review IV is available to buy online for $5.