The Center for Fiction is reopening in downtown Brooklyn in a new $6 million, 17,500 sq-ft., three story building that includes a bookstore, a reading room, and a 160-seat auditorium, featuring an LCD video wall. The nonprofit literary institution, which was founded as the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction in 1820, sold its home in midtown Manhattan in 2017 that helped fund its move to Brooklyn.
“We wanted to create a space that was similar to what you might find in Europe, like Rome’s Casa delle Letterature or the Literaturhaus Berlin,” said executive director Noreen Tomassi. “We want to provide a one-stop-shop for readers and writers,” she added, also comparing it to The Loft in Minneapolis.
Membership to the Center costs $150 annually and offers access to its facilities as well as workshops, readings, and other events. “In this digital age, we are encouraging physical interactions,” said Tomassi. “We want people to come together in a space where they can read, borrow, or buy books and encounter writers.”
Tomassi expects the new location and its close proximity to Brooklyn’s numerous independent publishing houses, as well as such other hip cultural institutions as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Mark Morris Dance Group, will make the Center an attractive destination for people from throughout New York’s five boroughs. “In Midtown [Manhattan] we had 650 members, but we should exceed that in Brooklyn,” she said.
Programming for events will cover a wide range of literary and non-literary topics. “People may have the perception that we are only interested in fiction between the cover of books,” Tomassi said, “but we are interested in fiction in all forms of storytelling: on screens, in games, oral storytelling….” The Center’s website, Tomassi added, is also being revamped and, once fully staffed, the Center will have 18 employees.
The Center for Fiction bookstore will hold a soft-opening on February 11. The 1,800-sq.-ft. retail space has 30-ft. high shelving and will stock some 3,000 titles, covering fiction, literature in translation, literary biography, and more. Sidelines include pens, notebooks, and cards. The bookstore opens onto a cafe next door. Ben Rybeck, previously manager of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Tex., has relocated to Brooklyn to manage the store. Hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays.
The Center’s grand opening celebration is set for February 19. Tickets are now on sale and cost $35, with proceeds supporting the Center’s KidsReads / KidsWrite program.