Brooklyn is a literary hub, a destination for aspiring writers by sheer coincidence or simply due to more affordable rates than another writerly beacon, Manhattan. On September 14, more than 150 authors converge upon Borough Hall for the third annual Brooklyn Book Festival, an all-day literary fair featuring those long on the scene and those just new to it.
“These days, Brooklyn is indeed the Creative Capital of America. We’re home to many of the world’s renowned writers and a thriving reading audience—as well as a destination for culture-seeking tourists worldwide,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz, who is hosting the event along with the Brooklyn Literary Council and Brooklyn Tourism. “The Brooklyn Book Festival is as diverse as our borough itself, and it’s only fitting that it’s now become a must on the national and international literary circuit. How sweet it is!”
It is pretty sweet. The Siren Music Festival of the literary scene, the Brooklyn Book Festival has a wide-range of both established and on-the-brink authors to hear – from those whose books are worn out on your bookshelf to those who are strangers to it.
The marquee name of the festival has to be Joan Didion, one of the most well-known and respected writers working today. Her most recent novel, last year’s The Year of Magical Thinking, hits you with its personal look at the writer’s experience with grief. She is one not to miss at this year’s event.
Other verifiably “hot” authors on the scene – and Brooklynites to boot – include Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn); Susan Choi (Pulitzer Prize finalist American Woman and the recent A Person of Interest); Pete Hamill (a New Yorker staffer whose thirteenth book is North River); Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections); brothers Phillip Lopate, a film critic, poet and essayist, and Leonard Lopate, a public radio host on WNYC; Slate editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg; New York Times writer Lily Koppel, author of The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal; “Saturday Night Life” writer and humorist Simon Rich (Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations); and, unrelated, Nathaniel Rich, author of this year’s The Mayor’s Tongue.
There are, of course, many many other, non-Brooklyn-based or native writers headed downtown on August 14. There are too many to list in their entirety here unfortunately, but some highlights include Jimmy Breslin; Terry McMillian of Waiting to Exhale; screenwriter and novelist Richard Price (Lush Life, Clockers); George Pelecanos, a writer on “The Wire”; Esmeralda Santiago (American Dream); The Beauty Myth’s Naomi Wolf; Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth; poets D. Nurkse and Tao Lin; Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi (How Does it Feel to Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America); A.M. Homes (This Book Will Save Your Life); Geoff Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone; Iranian-American novelist Porochista Khakpour; and Portuguese writer Jose Eduardo Agualusa.
Pop culture enthusiasts also wouldn’t want to miss Chuck Klosterman, whose upcoming novel, Downtown Owl, is out this month, and check out the hype with Charles Bock, who has one of the most-talked about books of the year with Beautiful Children. (For the full list of confirmed authors, go to www.brooklynbookfestival.org.)
Readers of young adult fiction and children will also get a kick out of the festival, as notable authors from both distinctions will come out for the affair. Panel topics include graphic novels (think Ariel Schrag and her autobiographical comics such as the comic series Awkward, which, since we are talking about books for teenagers here, is pretty self-explanatory), fantasy (such as Brian Wood and Holly Black of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and Susan Cooper of “The Dark is Rising” saga) and “glamour fiction” (most notably Cecily von Ziegesar of the “Gossip Girl” series) featured at the “Youth Stoop” stage. Other notable authors include “chica lit’s” Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and Gail Carson Levine of “The Princess Series” fame.
At the “Children’s Area,” kid and parent favorites such as Chris Myers, Jon Scieszka, Jane O’Connor and Mo Willems, who makes his second appearance at the festival, will read from their work.
“I had great time hanging out with the kids, seeing the other authors, hanging with my pal Jon Scieszka who came up on stage and helped me read some of the big words in my book,” says Willems, a former Brooklynite who now calls Massachusetts home.
The festival will be held on five outdoor stages in Borough Hall Plaza and Columbus Park, as well as “Reading Rooms” inside Borough Hall and nearby at the Brooklyn Historical Society and St. Francis College auditorium. In addition to hearing from authors, you can of course peruse titles from more than 140 booksellers, publishers and literary organizations at the festival’s outdoor literary marketplace.
So get your literary fix at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 14. The event is held at Borough Hall Plaza (209 Joralemon Street) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is free. For the most up-to-date information, including the complete list of authors, go to www.visitbrooklyn.org. Also checkout myspace.com/brooklynbookfestival and the Brooklyn Book Festival Official Site on facebook for more.
©2008 Community News Group
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