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Talk to Me

Talk to Me: New York Stories at the PEN Festival

The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature brought writers from all over the world to New York City this week. In a fitting move, the annual event included New York Stories, a panel on how the Big Apple inspires the written word. On Thursday night, authors, urbanites and intellectuals crowded into the auditorium at the Morgan Museum to hear how New York City shaped the work of Henry James, Edith Wharton and Elizabeth Hardwick.

The panel included Colm Tóibín, Roxana Robinson and Darryl Pinckney — who have edited the New York stories of, respectively, James, Wharton and Hardwick — as well as Catalan writer Quim Monzó, who spoke of his own experiences in New York. Editorial director of New York Review Books Classics series Edwin Frank moderated the event.

Stream and download the talk here for free.

Bon Mots

On James: "The narrator wanders in the city and wonders how she could possibly inhabit 53rd Street. 'When I turn into it from Fifth Avenue the vista seems too hideaous.' " -Colm Tóibín

On Why Writers Write: "I think all writers really start off feeling like outsiders, and that's part of why we all write — because we're trying to reconcile some feeling of marginalization and some feeling of not being at the center of things." -Roxana Robinson

On Hardwick: "She never went downtown, or to Brooklyn. She was not a bohemian adventurer like Susan [Sontag], off to see the latest avant-garde theater from Poland. And she was not a deep anarch like her best friend Barbara Epstein, who took no shit from cops and was quite prepared to get arrested." -Darryl Pinckney

Monzó's First Impression: "My idea of New York comes more from the movies than from novels. The first time I came to New York City, it was 1975 and I felt...I already knew the streets, the buildings. When I went down to catch the train, I already knew all that because I'd already seen all those items all my life."