If I needed another piece of evidence that Brooklyn has taken over the literary scene in New York I definitely got it yesterday at the Brooklyn Book Festival. It is the largest free literary event in New York City and regarded one of the premier ones in the United States. Year by year it attracts thousands of bookworms to listen to authors and walk through the stalls of publishers, literary magazines and organizations. Readings and discussions are taking place in Borough Hall and other buildings around as well as on open air stages. Brooklyn’s indie bookstores are nicely integrated in the festival. Every venue is linked to one bookstore having a stall next to it. They sell the books talked about. Sunny weather helped to make it a wonderful event.
I had set up a schedule for the whole day, what was not easy because there were so many interesting panels. I had to get up early for my first one, called “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”. Two authors (should have been three, but one was missing) gave readings and talked about their books on relationships. At 10am not many people had shown up yet and the Community Room in Borough Hall stayed quite empty. With the second panel at 11am “Personal Stories, National Memories” with three international authors it got filled.
For later events lines were forming outside organized by an army of volunteers in bright orange t-shirts.
At noon I took a break and browsed through the marketplace. Publishers show and sell their books, magazines and organization give free copies of special editions, authors promote their self-published books. At a stall of the Dorothy Parker Society I learned where I most likely will spend my birthday. There will be a book launch of “Under the Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide” at the Algonquin. Does anybody out there want to join me? Cheers!
At Poets & Writers I picked up a copy of their MFA issue. Maybe I should revive my buried idea to get a MFA in Creative Writing. Now there are many low-residency programs.
My break as well was good to get first projections of Germany’s elections. What would I have done without my smart phone?
For lunch I simply had a corn on the cob from a Caribbean food stall, then it was time to get in line for the next event at 1 pm, “Storytelling: How Do We Tell Our Most Essential Stories?”. Standing in line gave me time to keep track with the results at home. I got in the wrong line though, because I used another entrance to Borough Hall now than in the morning. So I ended up at the Courtroom instead of the Community Room. The latter one was packed already when I arrived and I could only sit at the floor. Jamaica Kincaid was missing at the panel. It was not so interesting as I had expected and I left early to make sure I get a seat at the 2pm panel at the outdoor North Stage, “Kitchens, Kith and Kin: a Food Memoir Mash –up”. There I came across a very fascinating book that I immediately put on my list: Anya von Bremzen – Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. She tells Soviet history through the lens of her family in Moscow, told by recipes. Isn’t that a great idea?
3pm was “The Faces of Brooklyn” in the Courtroom. Two authors, an apparently famous one and a Newcomer just having published her first novel, who write in and about Brooklyn and a guy who designs covers for the New Yorker and made one of the Brooklyn Bridge.
4pm was in the same room, but all people had to get out and in line again. “The Ugly Duckling” was about transformations. Audrey Niffenegger was one of the authors. The line was long, but they got everybody in.
Finally I went for Colum McCann at 5pm at “What Fills the Void After War?”. I had my copy of “Let the Great World Spin” signed afterwards.
I was pretty tired when I came home. Priya had kept some leftover Coq au Vin for me that I happily accepted. Before I enjoyed it I checked the results again and we spent some time discussing politics and politicians.
When I checked the NY Times this morning I found 2 pages about Angela Merkel’s triumph but nothing about the Brooklyn Book Festival. That was disappointing.