A Brooklyn Writer Remembers the Painful Contradictions of Her Childhood in Selma

Courtesy of the Tabla Rasa Gallery
Willie Mae Brown during one of her audiobook recording sessions

Willie Mae Brown's Selma doesn't just pivot on the grand events of the 1965 voting rights march and the immortal legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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NYC's Cuban Americans Look Ahead to Life After the Embargo

Center for Cuban Studies' Facebook
A crowd at the Center for Cuban Studies in October, during a book-signing for Back Channel to Cuba.
When President Barack Obama officially announced plans to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba, the minds of many Americans immediately went to cigars, or rum, or cigars and rum. But for some Cubans, Cuban Americans, and even Cuban enthusiasts across the country, the decision, announced on December 17, stirred up different sentiments.

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Grilling Mimi Pond About Her New Graphic Novel, Over Easy

Panels from Over Easy.
Cartoonist Mimi Pond's history with the Voice goes back to the early '80s, when she drew a page regularly for Mary Peacock's fashion section. Pond soon became a best-selling humorist with her book The Valley Girl's Guide to Life. In the meantime, she wrote for television, writing for Pee-Wee's Playhouse and the first episode of The Simpsons, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire."

Her first graphic novel, Over Easy, is a clever, warm-hearted look back at her time as an art-school dropout-turned-waitress in an idiosyncratic Oakland diner, as California hippieism was giving way to disco and punk.

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Tig Notaro: "It's Not Like I Take Myself Too Seriously, Like Some Kind of Truth-Teller Comedian Now"

Categories: Interviews

Laura Jayne Martin
Tig Notaro is busy. You wouldn't think 2013 would feel very busy for the comedian after the year she had in 2012. Notaro's last year seemed as though it contained a lifetime's worth of tragedy in a few short months. Her year included contracting pneumonia, then a life-threatening intestinal disease, her mother's death in a freak accident, breaking up with her girlfriend, and, just when it seemed like the bad news was over, last August she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Sam Lipsyte Talks The Fun Parts, Being in a Noise Band, and Giving a Shit

Categories: Interviews

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(c) Ceridwen Morris
Sam Lipsyte
On a recent Friday afternoon in Morningside Heights, The Voice met the man routinely hailed as one of America's funniest writers: Sam Lipsyte. Sitting in the Creative Writing Department at Columbia, where he has taught in the M.F.A. program for the past eight years, Lipsyte seems like one of those Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society-types. His voice is quieter than most people's, and every once in awhile he'll say something pretty profound, pause, laugh not too loudly, throw his head back, and smile behind his dark-rimmed glasses. For someone the New York Times called "piss-yourself funny" and "the novelist of his generation," he appears subdued and down to earth. We caught up with him about writing, his college days, and his latest book, The Fun Parts, a collection of short stories that will be released by FSG on March 5.

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This is What it's Like to Crash-Land Into the Hudson River

Flickr user Greg L.

Following the weekend's scary yet ultimately uplifting news of another plane crashing into the Hudson without killing anyone, we revisited the infamous Flight 1549 crash.

Maryann Bruce, a passenger on the plane that Captain "Sully" Sullenberger successfully ditched in the river back in 2009, told us about what it's like when the plane you're on falls into the Hudson River.

What did it feel like when your flight was going down, and when it hit the water?

I'm kind of an interesting person to ask, because my response will be very different from everyone else's. There were 150 passengers, so if you speak to 150 passengers, you'll get 150 different stories. I fly so often that I realized there was a problem with the engines. I figured we hit birds and would make an emergency landing. There was an off-duty pilot sitting behind me; I looked at him and said, "Are we going to make an emergency landing at LaGuardia?" He said yes, very calmly. When he seemed to be calm, I went back to reading the newspaper. I was thinking, 'Oh, I'm going to be late getting home, what a pain in the ass.'

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Pencil-Sharpening Machine David Rees Talks Malcolm Gladwell, William F. Buckley, Telepathic Pencil-Sharpening, and More

Categories: How-To, Interviews
Pencil-sharpening maven David Rees turned the non-fiction writing series at the Mid-Manhattan Library upside-down Tuesday night with his edgy pencil-sharpening workshop -- based on his instructional book How to Sharpen Pencils.

Rees, a former full-time political cartoonist, is like the Liam-Neeson-in-Taken-2 of pencils. No matter what you throw at him, not even hundreds of dangerous international crime-lords, you can't break him.

I came into the workshop wanting to make fun of it, but as it turns out, Rees, the satirist, already made it funny. Some critics and pencil-purists accuse him of mocking the craft , but as it turns out, he knows a shit-ton about pencils and how to sharpen them.

He actually has a pencil-sharpening business, through which he's cranked out more than 800 pencils to customers world-wide.

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Q&A: Rocky Director John Avildsen on Working With Lloyd Kaufman

John G. Avildsen at the Oscars

In last week's print issue of the Village Voice, we spent time with Lloyd Kaufman, the Troma Entertainment president and splatter-comedy director who's currently remaking his early '80s original, Class of Nuke 'Em High this summer. Kaufman's known for his prolific career in the independent underground, but one of his earliest mentors was future Academy Award Winner John G. Avildsen, who met Lloyd in the editing room of shoestring studio Cannon Films and brought him on for Joe (1970), which introduced actors Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle, and then Rocky, which shows Kaufman briefly onscreen as a drunken bum and in the credits as pre-production manager. "A title I had never heard and never have since," offers Avildsen, who invented credits for nonunion Lloyd, including "executive in charge of locations" on Saturday Night Fever, which the Academy Award winner was slated to direct. Avildsen spoke with us on the phone recently about his old friend.

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Henry Hill, Goodfellas Gangster, on Art, the Witness Protection Program, and His Adult Circumcision

via Hill's eBay account
Henry Hill with Ray Liotta
Henry Hill was best known by Ray Liotta's face. An East New York native famously mentored by the Lucchese crime family, Hill was the Lufthansa-heisting mobster whose 1986 memoir, the Nicholas-Pileggi-shaped Wiseguy, served as the inspiration for Martin Scorsese's modern classic Goodfellas. As TMZ reported last night, Hill died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 69.

Hill's life consisted of well-documented involvements with the dirty businesses of narcotics, extortion, robbery, and one major point-shaving college-basketball scandal. Eventually he became an FBI informant and entered the Witness Protection Program until he was expelled for, in his words, "being a Goodfella." He then lived openly under his real name, relocating to Topanga County, becoming a recurring guest on Howard Stern, and hawking his paintings through an eBay store. In 2007, the enterprising ex-con opened a mob-themed restaurant in West Haven, Connecticut called Wiseguys. (An attic fire mysteriously broke out shortly after the establishment opened.)

That same year, the Voice spoke with the self-described "bullshit artist" about spaghetti sauce, his artistic muse ("whatever goes through my sick, fuckin' mind"), his Witness Protection Program dismissal, and "learning to fuck again" after his late-life circumcision. Reprinted below is an edited version of Michael Clancy's Runnin' Scared dialogue with the legendary gangster.

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Q&A: Director Lorca Peress On the World Premie of The Image Maker At Queens College

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Maurice Peress, conductor, and Lorca Peress, director
Theater director Lorca Peress is directing two one act operas opening this weekend at Queen College's Goldstein Theater. My Kinsman, Major Molineau (making its New York premiere) and The Image Maker (making its world premiere) were both composed by Bruce Saylor and are conducted by Ms. Peress's father Maurice Peress, the legendary conductor and author of Dvorak to Duke Ellington: A Conductor Explores America's Music and Its African American Roots . (When we covered it for Sound of the City, we had the pleasure of having Maestro Peres as our date at the world premiere of Philip Glass's Symphony No. 9 in Carnegie Hall last January, where he had once worked as Leonard Bernstein's assistant.)

We interviewed Ms. Peress over the phone last week about the new pieces, working with her dad, and creating new work at Queens College.

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