Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday Night in Fort Greene: Nelson George Talks with Touré at Greenlight Bookstore

Tonight we had the privilege of being a witness to a free-wheeling 80-minute conversation between two of our favorite Brooklyn writers, Nelson George and Touré, at the wonderful Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, the neighborhood they've both been a big part of for decades.

It was like eavesdropping on these two highly intelligent and insightful friends who seem to know everyone you'd like to know, except that they also answered the eavesdroppers' questions. When it was over, Nelson George signed copies of his book for lots of people.

The evening focused on George's career, timed for the paperback release of City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success, which we read and loved shortly after seeing the author at the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem a year ago. (Our 83-year-old dad, who grew up in Brownsville thirty years before Nelson George did and went to the same high school -- we went to the same junior high, J.H.S. 285 -- also loved the book, which we've told our BMCC creative writing students, especially the ones who live in Brownsville, to get.)

The large audience -- as you can tell from the angle of our pics, we happily stood off to the side along with a lot of other people -- seemed totally fascinated and involved in the discussion. We wish it had been taped so that people who weren't there tonight could hear Nelson George and Touré had to say about the neighborhood, friendship, music, writing, and lots more.

Nelson George began the reading by reading an early excerpt from City Kid, but most of the evening was a genuine conversation.

Among the many subjects discussed were mentoring among black writers, then and now; Fort Greene in what may have been its heyday and its post-Nets/Atlantic Yards future; various musical performers (takes on everyone from Timbalake and Miles Davis to Janelle Monáe, Sylvester and even Toto); whether hip-hop innovation has stalled; where music journalism is heading; Nelson George's long friendships with icons like Spike Lee and Chris Rock; and his varied, always interesting past and coming projects, like Left Unsaid, a web-based series about a Sunday brunch among Brooklyn women; a book on Michael Jackson's Thriller

(the only time these easygoing friends had a serious disagreement was over MJ's best album; Touré said Off the Wall, Nelson said Bad); working with Chris Rock on Good Hair; etc. We got to hear gossip, insight, funny moments, obscure info and speculation, all fascinating. You should have been there.

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