PEN World Voices Festival


Dale Peck plays the tambourine and sings along with the Peacock’s Penny Arcade band on their rendition of “Paperback Writer.”

The PEN American Center kicked off its annual World Voices Festival Thursday at a luncheon aboard the ocean liner Queen Mary 2. This year’s theme will be public life and private life, announced PEN president Francine Prose.

Drawing a comparison between the international literature festival and a luxury cruise, PEN executive director Michael Roberts, whimsically noted that both crossed oceans, and provided plenty of time to read, write, and to get to know one another. In a serious moment, Prose reiterated the PEN center’s commitment to protecting human rights, mentioning the British author, Sebastian Horsley, who was recently denied entry into the U.S. on the grounds of “moral turpitude.”

But things didn’t stay somber for long, as authors Jonathan Ames and Dale Peck climbed on stage with the band Peacock’s Penny Arcade to sing “Paperback Writer.” PEN staffers handed out kazoos to the audience to encourage their participation. The only disappointment was that Salman Rushdie, despite being a chairman of the festival and co-host of the event, was a no-show.

More than 170 writers from 51 countries are taking part in the 2008 World Voices Festival. They will discuss topics ranging from the crisis in Darfur to the mafia and the lives of children. The PEN events will begin on April 29 and run through May 4. For a full schedule 2008 World Voices events click here.