PEN American Center bussed approximately 200 publishing industry professionals from Manhattan to Red Hook, Brooklyn, yesterday, to board the ocean liner Queen Mary 2 for a celebration of the PEN World Voices Festival. Festival chair Salman Rushdie, PEN American Center president Francine Prose, and festival sponsor Cunard hosted the on-board luncheon, and gave a sampling of the more than 100 international and American writers who will participate in the 2008 PEN World Voices Festival in New York from April 29 to May 4.
Holding the reception on “the greatest ocean liner in the world” was an apt metaphor for the festival’s goal, said PEN executive director Michael Roberts. Speaking to guests in the ship’s planetarium, Roberts explained that just as the QM2 crosses an ocean—it makes regular transatlantic voyages—the PEN World Voices Festival also attempts to cross barriers by featuring 170 writers from 51 countries, including André Aciman, Umberto Eco, Nuruddin Farah, Adam Gopnik, A.M. Homes, Leonard Lopate, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, Jutta Richter and many others.
After speeches by Roberts, festival director Caro Llewelyn and novelist Francine Prose, Jonathan Ames and Dale Peck performed "Paperback Writer" with Kenneth Tynan's son Matthew's band Peacock's Penny Arcade. Guests then made their way to the Britannia Room for lunch. Following the meal, guests toured the ship, visiting the decks as well as the QM2’s library, which boasts 8,000 volumes.