A conversation with Linden Park, GS student and the founder of the Blue Notebooks, a series of speaking events centering on literary and artistic topics.
The next Blue Notebooks event, a panel discussion on the art of translating literature, will be held October 17 at 8 p.m. in the Bent Lecture Hall, 209 Havemeyer. http://www.thebluenotebooks.com
How did the Blue Notebooks come to exist? I haphazardly founded the Blue Notebooks in Spring Semester, '06. It seemed—from the writers/editors I know—that the artists performing at the top of their crafts are very generous about sharing their convictions with all of us. Our first event with Sam Lipsyte [novelist and Columbia writing professor] was an example of that, as he reached beyond his comfort level to share with us, whole-heartedly. I'm sure everyone present at the event could feel his honesty and intensity. I think that's what both art and the university are about - a genuine forum of ideas. So I guess the Blue Notebooks exists to facilitate the exchange of ideas in the Columbia community, by eliminating the barrier between the artist and the student.
I'm a moderator/interviewer for the events, but starting from our next event, other members will alternate in taking the role as interviewer for their prospective events/projects. I also harrass writers/artists to come to Columbia, as I have no shame.
Who are the bloggers on your site? As you might have noticed, the bloggers are deeply troubled people. They are 3 GS'ers (Helena Gronberg, Ryan Tozzi, and Bethany Ritz) and 2 CC girls (Ashraya Gupta and Sasha de Vogel). There's one non-Columbian (Casper Mao) who makes sure the blogs don't get too bourgeois. He works as a shift manager at the Sunglass Hut in Paramus, NJ.
How often do you host events? Once a month, usually, during the school year. We also might host some events outside of Columbia.
What can first-time visitors expect at the translation panel discussion? We have editors from The New Yorker, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and W.W. Norton, who are also expert translators; some of the writers we'll be talking about will be - Isaac Babel, Joseph Roth, Primo Levi, Alessandro Baricco, and Gregoire Bouillier. (Oh, also Marcel Proust and Homer.) I want our discussions to be creative acts, as well, so I try to approach certain subjects elliptically. That way, no one knows where the discussion will end up. Also, as our panelists are some of the best editors in the industry, you can expect a general discussion about the status of publishing/writing today... so if you're aspiring to be a writer or an editor, you can't afford to miss out.
How did you hear about GS? Through my good friend Dosun Jung, who is in GS now. I left Johns Hopkins University 10+ years ago, and (after becoming a husband/father) I thought I might try to approach life pragmatically for a change. The first step was to finish my education.
Can you give us a hint what “the mother of all events” might be? Most likely it will be held in the Miller Theater. We haven't finalized on the format of the event, but it will be a hybrid event featuring some of the most recognizable names working in literature and music. (Yes, kids. There will most likely be bands.) We're in the process of coordinating schedules with Dave Eggers, so the event might be co-hosted by The Blue Notebooks and McSweeney's/826. The event will be for charity/benefit.
How can GS students get involved in the Blue Notebooks? Our group is brimming with ideas but is pretty inept when it comes to organization. So I'm looking for people who are great with the details and logistics. As far as bloggers and interviewers are concerned, we have everything planned for this school year. But some of us will leave, and the idea is to have other people pick up where we leave off. We're in the process of deciding exactly how we'd select members.
But anyone interested can email me directly - firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to our bloggers, we wouldn't exist without our members Michael Hennessy (GS), Niko Cunningham (GS), William Melendez (GS), and Ben Reininga (CC).
Also, our advisors—Dean Mary McGee and Professor Sam Lipsyte - have been phenomenal.
I'd just like to say that the reason why so many top writers and artists volunteer to come to our events, even though we can't pay them the kind of fees that they usually get at other venues, is that they know we approach their work with the respect they deserve. We examine the whole body of anyone's work, not just the latest book/work that's being pushed through the PR machinery. It's really about care: http://www.thebluenotebooks.com.