Your Guide to the Brooklyn Book Festival

By | September 9, 2010

Brooklyn Borough Hall

While more fashionable and richer New Yorkers will be brunching in Manhattan this Sunday, some of us will be in Brooklyn celebrating our love of literature at the Brooklyn Book Festival. I should mention that it's Fashion Week here in New York, which means lots of parties and beautiful, rich people spending loads of money on fashion shows that truly have no visible benefit to humanity. The Brooklyn Book Festival will be nothing like that, but the line-up of events promises titillating conversation and the chance to meet a whole host of celebrity authors:  Ashbery and Rushdie and Shtynegart, oh MY! The schedule of events posted on their website looks truly awesome. The whole shindig starts at 10 am on Sunday and goes well into the evening, with high-profile people showing up mostly in the evening. There are a staggering number of things going on all day and it seems many of the lectures require tickets (distributed for free an hour before each event at the information booth). So with so much to do, here's an annotated hour-by-hour guide to what I think you should attend. Please keep in mind this is completely biased.


It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It). Musically inspired readings by three chart-topping American fiction writers: Steve Almond (Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life), Jennifer Egan (A Visit from the Goon Squad), and Colson Whitehead (Sag Harbor). Followed by Q&A.


Kafka on the Block. In conjunction with BAM’s Next Wave Festival performance of Metamorphosis (Vesturport Theatre, Iceland) directed by Gísli Örn Gardarsson, BAM hosts a panel discussion on Kafka’s legacy with Joshua Cohen (Witz); Francine Prose,  (Reading Like a Writer), and Matthew Sharpe (The Sleeping Father; Nothing Is Terrible; Jamestown). Moderated by Liesl Schillinger, contributor to The New York Times Book Review.

I’m intrigued. I haven’t read any Joshua Cohen, though he’s supposed to be quite good. I’m extremely curious to know what Francine Prose has to say about Kafka.


The Legacy of Zinn (1922-2010). Amy Goodman, David Zirin and others discuss the intellectual and popular influence of Howard Zinn, Brooklyn-born  historian, author, anarchist, socialist, activist, and playwright with an introductory dramatic reading from the 423-page file on Zinn kept by the FBI and recently released through the Freedom of Information Act.

If “A People’s History of the United States” didn’t shape your intellectual pursuits at a very impressionable age, then I’m sorry. This should be fun.


Paul Auster in Conversation with John Ashbery, this year’s 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival BoBi Award winner. 

Yep, can’t argue with Auster and Ashbery. Although, Auster’s around all the time. That said…you should probably go to this:

Hallucinations of Your Neighbors. Three writers whose work pokes across the dividing line between reality and fantasy share their work and thoughts on just how far a writer can go. Short readings and a discussion with Cristina García (The Lady Matador’s Hotel), Steven Millhauser (Dangerous Laughter), and Peter Straub (A Dark Matter).  

Steven Millhauser is both an extremely talented writer and a wonderful professor. His story “The Room in the Attic” from Dangerous Laughter is one of the most haunting things I have ever read.


Eating Our Words. Do chefs ever get the equivalent of writer’s block in the kitchen? Do food writers ever lose their appetite after a difficult day at the keyboard? Gabrielle Hamilton (chef and owner of Prune), Ted Lee (one half of the James Beard Award–winning cookbook writing team of Matt Lee and Ted Lee), Francis Lam (food columnist for Salon), and Melanie Rehak (Eating for Beginners) discuss the differences and similarities between writing and eating, thinking and tasting, working out a recipe and working out a sentence.


Finding the Funny: The Humor of the Everyday. Humorists John Hodgman (The Areas of My Expertise), Sloane Crosley (How Did You Get This Number), and Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist (The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex) discuss their work.

Kristen Schaal is absolutely delightful and hilarious.


Live from the NYPL PRESENTS: The Pleasure Seekers:  Salman Rushdie in Conversation with Tishani Doshi. Salman Rushdie talks to novelist, poet and dancer Tishani Doshi about her acclaimed new novel The Pleasure Seekers and about Indian-Pakistani literature and diaspora-Indian literature in general, poetry, dance and, perhaps, the delights of Goan fish curry and chocolate Ganeshes. Introduced by Paul Holdengräber.

Post-fatwa and post-Padma Lakshmi Rushdie probably has some interesting things to say.  


NBCC “Name that Author” returns to the book festival with 2008 champ Brigid Hughes (A Public Space), 2009 champ Martha Southgate (Third Girl from the Left), critics Eric Banks, Steve Kellman, and David Haglund. John Reed (Tales of Woe), emcee. NBCC president Jane Ciabattari, referee/quizmaster.

How fun!


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