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Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Interview with the Author of The Brooklyn Experience: The Ultimate Guide to Neighborhoods & Noshes, Culture & The Cutting Edge
inspired you to write your book? Curiosity! In my experience—I’m an 8-times published
author—the best books seek to answer a question. The Brooklyn Experience is 350-page guidebook, with a ton of
practical information. But undergirding all the useful tips and neighborhood profiles
I was also trying to answer the question: What’s happening not just in, but
also to, Brooklyn?
Suddenly Brooklyn has a global profile; it’s the hippest
place in the universe. So with all this buzz, can Brooklyn hold onto its soul,
its moxie, and historically feisty attitude? Is gentrification Manhattanizing and
whitewashing Brooklyn? Will it keep its
diversity? Describing Brooklyn is like putting two hands on an elephant. I
interviewed dozens of movers and shakers, and visited dozens of neighborhoods.
is my 4th Brooklyn guidebook in 25 years. When my husband and I
moved here from Manhattan, we had no clue where we were so we did some
research, got interested, and ended up writing a book. Turns out, that was the
first independent guidebook to Brooklyn since the end of World War II! I never
set out to be a Brooklyn maven. But it’s true, life’s what happens when you’re
making other plans, and I now have a body of work that provides a longitudinal
view of Brooklyn, in print.
I was inspired to write the guidebook I myself would have
wanted to read if I were exploring Brooklyn for the first time. It’s not glib.
It has some depth, and scope.
2. What is it
about? The Brooklyn Experience is a two-fer,
two books rolled into one.
On one level, it’s a very practical guidebook to a place
with an international brand and reputation. It features over 200 pages
detailing interesting things to do and places to go in over 35 distinct
Brooklyn neighborhoods. It offers an insider’s view of historical sites, great
festivals, where to go kayaking and cycling and shopping, where to find vintage
stuff and see cool street art, and of course where nosh your way through the
Brooklyn culinary renaissance. Oh, and how to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.
On another level, the book also offers perspective. It
delves into facets of old and new Brooklyn. Brief essays cover everything from
the old Mafia to the new green revolution to Brooklyn traditions in literature,
political activism, and the embrace of immigrant cultures.
This book multitasks: it’s a resource for actual visitors but
also armchair travelers.
3. What do you
hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? Ha! That’s
“Man, I didn’t know there was that much history…fun…food…coastline,
you name it, in Brooklyn!”
4. What advice
do you have for writers? Oh, my advice is to…write! I mean, books don’t write
themselves. I have to laugh when people
say, oh, you must write so easily. I don’t think any writer just peels off good
work. It takes time, energy, attention, re-writing. Writing is just plain hard
work. There’s a Yiddish word, “sitzsfleisch.” It means, screw yourself to your
seat, sit yourself down, go to work, and persevere. So, keep at it.
5. Where do you
think the book publishing industry is heading? I’d say that
the publishing industry may be headed to … Brooklyn! Seriously, Brooklyn is
home to New York’s most important public literary event, the Brooklyn Book
Festival, held every September in Downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s home to a
zillion writers and literally dozens of indie publishers and leading indie
bookstores. The industry has survived the first wave of challenges from e-books
and portable devices; at least in Brooklyn, it’s headed toward the next really
challenges did you have in writing your book? Time, choice,
and calories were challenges. I had less than nine months to research and write
a finished manuscript of over 100,000 words, because the publisher had
production deadlines. That’s killer. I cancelled my life to get it done. As for
choice, Brooklyn’s blossomed, so deciding what to include or not was, well,
excruciating, because a lot of places are mom and pops, and I felt a kind of
responsibility to them. Finally, I included dozens of pizzerias and hundreds of
eateries in the book—and if you don’t think that adds up to a lot of calories,
there’s bridge I’d like to sell ya’.
7. If people
can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours? Three reasons.
First, this book will lead you to many wonderful places you never knew existed,
like Green-Wood Cemetery. Second,
Brooklyn is microcosmic. It’s a wildly diverse place –a place that spans both
rich and poor, artists and bankers, ninth generation Americans and off-the-boat
immigrants. People sort of coexist. It’s real, relatable and reflects so much
of what is going on elsewhere in America. Finally, you will get a bang for your buck.
Why? Because my book includes a unique bibliography of seventy-five novels, all
set in different Brooklyn neighborhoods, so my one humble volume leads readers to
dozens more books…you can just keep reading about the characters, cultures,
histories, struggles and opinions still emanating from this roiling place,
which standing on its own would be America’s fourth largest city.
About the Author: ELLEN
FREUDENHEIM is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, and has published
widely. She is the author of eight books including a 2004 award-winning
guidebook to Brooklyn and over a thousand articles online to help visitors and
residents find their way around the Big Apple’s hippest and most diverse
borough. Her books include Queens: What to Do, Where to Go (and How Not to
Get Lost) in New York’s Undiscovered Borough, and most significantly, Brooklyn:
The Ultimate Guide to New York’s Most Happening Borough.