Lit Seen: A Report From the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival

Gaitskill, Auster, Gessen—and Lupe Fiasco.

Brooklyn, home to Whitehead, Auster, Lethem, et al., is also, of course, home to Jay-Z and dozens of other rappers and, in a canny move, the festival organizers saw fit this year to acknowledge the borough's other major cultural export. "Poetry, Pop, and Hip-Hop," which brought together Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, the Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, poet and Wave Books proprietor Matthew Zapruder, and slam-poetry veteran Tracie Morris, was a surprisingly fluid examination of the links between the genres, though Lupe did not—to the loud chagrin of the rows of fanatical teenagers that ruled at the front of the auditorium—go so far as to demonstrate the craft.

That was left to, of all people, Mary Gaitskill, whose plan, it emerged, was to scuttle the festival's scheduled closing conversation between Jonathan Lethem and herself in favor of an hour-long (turned 30-second) rendition of Brooklyn-based joke-rap duo Das Racist's recent Internet smash "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." Lethem, alas, was unfamiliar with the song, but Gaitskill, undeterred, went it alone, doing the maddening hook as faithfully as a dreamy 54-year-old former downtown writer could manage. Another year, and maybe the Das Racist guys will get their own panel, too.

Next year, Robert Silvers skate-raps: Authors Lethem and Gaitskill close out the fest.
Aehee Kang
Next year, Robert Silvers skate-raps: Authors Lethem and Gaitskill close out the fest.

zbaron@villagevoice.com

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