Brooklyn Bookbeat: BAM gives boost to Brooklyn’s rep as literary haven

December 17, 2012 By Samantha Samel Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Joseph V. Melillo. Photo courtesy of BAM
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One of the hottest events on BAM’s cultural calendar has become “Eat, Drink & Be Literary” — basically, dinners in the BAMcafé (Lepercq Space) with extraordinary speakers who are noted authors available for Q&A and mingling.  Founded in 2005, nearly all of the “Eat Drink” events have sold out each year, offering hungry readers and writers the chance to dine alongside their favorite authors.

Partnering with the National Book Awards, BAM will be hosting an exciting roster of participants 2013, including Junot Díaz, Jamaica Kincaid and Richard Russo. Brooklyn-based writers Martin Amis, Colson Whitehead and Nell Freudenberger will be featured as well. Authors will read from and discuss their work with a moderator, after which audience members are invited to ask questions.

As BAM has traditionally focused on performing arts programs, the Eat, Drink & Be Literary series demonstrates the institution’s flexibility. The idea for the program originated with BAM’s president, Karen Brooks Hopkins; she spoke to Joe Melillo, BAM’s executive producer, about a possible collaboration with the National Book Foundation (now the National Book Awards), and the two organizations joined forces.  Sandy Sawotka, BAM’s director of publicity, told the Eagle, “Joe had been thinking about a new program for the BAMcafé, and it came together nicely.”

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Over the past eight years, the series has expanded BAM’s audience to include a distinct literary crowd. In previous years many prominent authors have participated, including Michael Cunningham, E.L. Doctorow, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Téa Obreht, among others. Past moderators include writers Kurt Andersen, Michael Greenberg and Francine Prose.

‘Eat Drink’ is organized by BAM’s Humanities department, along with Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the National Book Awards. Augenbraum will serve as one of this year’s moderators, as will author and Guggenheim Fellow Phillip Lopate, and editor Deborah Treisman.

The 2013 “Eat Drink” series, already nearly half sold-out, will kick off on Jan. 23: British author Martin Amis will read from his new work “Lionel Asbo: State of England.” The series will continue through June.  Sawotka tells us, “Most ‘Eat Drink’ events sell out and we couldn’t be happier with its success.”

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