Come Aboard, PEN’s Expecting You

By Neal Comment


Dale Peck and Colum McCann were among the literary players recruited to join a group of media types on the Queen Mary 2 last week for the unveiling of this year’s PEN World Voices schedule. After riding a bus from SoHo to Red Hook, and passing through all the security checkpoints, we were greeted with Champagne in the ship’s ampitheatre and, eventually, welcomed by the commodore, who made a series of vaguely suggestive remarks about his ocean liner in rich, stentorian tones reminiscent of Geoffrey Palmer before passing the microphone on to World Voices organizer Caro Llewellyn and PEN president Francine Prose, who noted that the week-long literary festival is “not only interesting and fun but also increasingly important and useful.”

“This isn’t just a random collection of great authors,” she added, after running through some of the biggest names among the 170 scheduled guests. (Bernard-Henri Lévy talks Darfur with Mia Farrow! Joyce Carol Oates has questions for Umberto Eco!) The theme of this year’s festival, “Public Lives/Private Lives,” promises to be a lively one, possibly encompassing everything from government intrusion into privacy to bloggers spilling their most intimate secrets online.

Afterwards, PEN turned the stage over to Peacock’s Penny Arcade, a Brooklyn-based band whose co-vocalist, Dalia Jurgensen, has a memoir about her life as a pastry chef coming out next year, while bandmates Therese Cox and Matthew Peacock Tynan are finishing up novels. And then we wandered through the ship’s corridors—which more than one guest compared to being trapped in a luxury hotel in Vegas—to the dining room for a seafood lunch, before being whisked back to Manhattan before the weekend cruise to the Bahamas began.


Other accounts of the junket can be found at The Publishing Spot and Vulture. But they don’t have the raw footage from Peacock Penny Arcade’s opening two numbers…

“I Left My Bra in Mississippi”

“Airport Road”