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PEN Luncheon
Queen Mary II
March 20, 2008

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photos Courtesy of the Queen Mary II


Opposite Photo:
Francine Prose, The President of PEN

There is just something about the Queen Mary II. The feeling overwhelms you as you walk the (enclosed) "plank." QMII is huge, glamorous and filled with possibilities. Walking the passageways, it is easy to imagine the stories that will unfold in the next five days as the ship crosses the Atlantic. Who will fall in love? Will there be adulteries, intrigues, jealousies, feuds, the ghost of Agatha Christie? And if there are (is), will there be sufficient internet access so an intrepid voyager can blog it all to the people back home (there is)? Sailing on the Queen Mary II is a writer's dream vacation; purple prose (in honor of the ship's royal lineage) could certainly reign supreme.

Cunard Lines, the owners of the Queen Mary II, graciously supports many charitable causes, hosting luncheons on the days they are in port. On March 20, 2008, Cunard donated a luncheon to PEN, which (according to their website) is "an association of writers working to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship." The luncheon was in honor of the PEN World Voices Festival (chaired by Salman Rushdie) which will be held in New York City from April 29 - May 4, 2008 (see pen.org).

The event started in the ships planetarium, the Illuminations Theater. Commodore Bernard Warner of Cunard spoke welcoming all aboard and telling the many writers present that the QMII boasts an impressive eight thousand volume library, a vast number that should supply something for every taste. But listening to the Commodore and looking at all the famous writers sitting in the audience, I could not help wondering how many of them, upon hearing that the QMII had eight thousand books, could have easily cried out, "Me, too, me, too."

The guests then heard from PEN executive director Michael Roberts who spoke about how the Pen World Voices Festival attempts to cross oceans and frontiers by featuring one hundred and seventy writers from fifty-one countries. Next to speak were Carolyn Llewellyn and PEN President, Francine Prose. Each spoke of the wonder of this year's festival and of PEN's mission to defend writer's freedom of speech throughout the world, including right here in our United States.

The presentations ended with a performance of the PEN "garage" band, Matthew Tynan's (the son of the legendary Kenneth Tynan) Peacock's Penny Arcade. The band played several songs that they themselves had written and then called up members of the audience, including Jonathan Ames and Dale Peck, to help them perform a rousing rendition of "Paperback Writer." The lyrics to Peacock's original songs are witty and fun. They are also good looking, good musicians and definitely a band to watch.

Then it was on to a lovely lunch in the beautiful Britannia Room, where guests dine under the watchful "gaze" of portraits of England's royal family. All Hail Brittania!

Many thanks to both PEN and Cunard lines for inviting New York Cool to such a lovely event.


Brian O'Conner Carol LLewellyn
Colum McCann Andy and Elly Tepper
Dale Peck Maya Singer
Pen Executive Director Michael Roberts Commodore Bernard Warner

David Noh, Alison Granucci and Offer Ziv

Sidney Offit

Fabian Bilodeau and Tom Gates

Francine Prose and Jonathan Marder

Matthew Tynan with his Band, Peacock’s Penny Arcade

Jonathan Ames and Dale Peck Perform with Peacock’s Penny Arcade


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