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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's cooking for Eat, Drink & Be Literary with Keith Gessen?

by Jessica Goldschmidt

Keith Gessen illustration by Nathan Gelgud
In preparation for tomorrow’s Eat, Drink & Be Literary event with Keith Gessen (founding editor of n+1) and his sister Masha Gessen (author of The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin), we asked Keith a bit about his Russian background, literary preferences, and his and Masha’s sibling dynamics.

Where are you from and where do you live?
I was born in Moscow and grew up outside of Boston. I've lived in Brooklyn since 2005, first in Prospect Heights, now in Bed-Stuy.

What are you reading right now?
This isn't always the case, but right now I'm reading some books about the 1930s in Russia.

What are you working on?
I'm writing about the 1930s in Russia.

Do you and Masha give each other feedback on each other's work?
Yes. Sometimes.

Was Masha an overbearing big sister?
No, she was incredibly supportive and helpful. She took me on a cross-country road-trip when I was 16 and let me drive. She read all my college application essays four or five times. She helped me come to Russia for the first time, in the mid-90s. And on and on.

What’s a word you love in Russian that doesn’t translate to English? What does it mean, roughly?
I love the expression nyet uzh, which is nyet as in no, and the article uzh, which is just a kind of accelerator or ironic addition. Together nyet uzh it means something like "now, now."

Do you prefer to read books on a screen or on paper?

Can you name one major difference between the literary scenes in Moscow and Brooklyn?
In Moscow there are two or three scenes, and they're aware of one another and talk to one another, even if they don't like each other. In New York there are eight or nine scenes at least, but for the most part they ignore each other. So the New York scene is much richer, in every sense, but also sometimes—because there isn't enough argument, enough disagreement—less interesting, with less at stake.

Be sure and check out tomorrow evening's conversation between Keith and Masha Gessen, moderated by Philip Lopate and including dinner and drinks!

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