Why does Brooklyn inspire so many young writers?
Porochista Khakpour was born in Tehran in 1978 and raised in the Greater Los Angeles area (South Pasadena, to be exact). Her first language was Farsi, her second (and luckily mostly forgotten) tongue, Valley Girl. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and The Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars MA program. She has been awarded fellowships from Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo.
She began writing as an arts and entertainment journalist—her subjects have spanned from clubs (Paul Oakenfold!) to couture (Paul Poiret!); Maggie Gyllenhaal (Maggie’s first big feature!) to Fabio (Porochista’s first feature at 16!); New York City’s finest drinking establishments (Paper magazine bar columnist, 2000-2001, as well as New York magazine online bar critic) to rural Illinois’s most dangerous skydiving compound (2004 staff writer stint at The Chicago Reader). Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Village Voice, The Chicago Reader, Paper, Flaunt, Nylon, Bidoun, Alef, Canteen, nerve.com and FiveChapters.com, among others.
She currently spends a third of her time in New York City and two thirds three hours away in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where she teaches Fiction at Bucknell University.
Question: Why does Brooklyn inspire so many young writers?
Khakpour: There’s definitely been a lot of talk of the young Brooklyn writer. And there’s now been the backlash for sure. You know I got called a Brooklyn writer not too long ago, and I was torn between a sense of pride or a sense of embarrassment, because now it’s become such a thing. I think we, again, have to think of why that phenomenon exists, right? Brooklyn was initially a cheap neighborhood for writers to live. And you could have space. And you could, probably most importantly, have your own office, which is what I have now in my current place in Brooklyn. I have a nice office. I wouldn’t have been able to get that in Manhattan at the modest price that I’m paying. So there’s those considerations. But then, you know, you get enough artists and writers moving to a neighborhood, the thing begins to brand itself – probably originating in a sense of pride, right? People saying, “Well yeah,” you know, “We’re Brooklyn writers and this is our thing,” and you know trying to defend themselves. And then it becomes a sort of embarrassing brand. So yeah there’s times . . . You have to sort of say it with a smile, you know, that you’re a Brooklyn writer. But that’s probably gonna change because Brooklyn is getting awfully expensive – to the point where it’s definitely in competition with Manhattan, especially the savory parts. So I don’t know. I wonder in a few years are we gonna have the Queens writer, (01:32:49) you know? And then far into the future it will be the Staten Island writer, you know? It’s scary. But what I don’t like about it is that it takes so much attention from all the writers that don’t even live in New York. That’s one thing about the book tour that was so interesting to me, and about the friendships I have forged with the other writers who live all over this country. And you know I think I always thought that as a writer you needed to live here. And even recently I thought it’s a good idea to be near my editor, or my agent. And you know it’s sort of a fallacy. So I don’t like the feeling that . . . I don’t like spreading the sort of idea that writers need to live, if not in Manhattan, then right by it. Because the beauty is now you can, for the most part, live everywhere . . . anywhere you want. But I do love Brooklyn, and I like . . . I like my new neighborhood in Kensington. There’s a lot of . . . There’s a very vibrant Middle Eastern community there that I can spy on, which is fun. And you get a great diversity in Brooklyn, and it’s just affordable and it’s beautiful. So a formula works I guess.
For one thing, it's cheap.
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