The only proof anyone needs that Brooklyn is cooler than New Jersey is to consider that Brooklyn has a book festival and New Jersey doesn't. Check out Brooklyn Book Festival and draw your own conclusions.
I blogged about the Brooklyn Book Festival last year, had similarly high expectations for this year's festival and I wasn't disappointed. The offerings were again so enormous, with so many wonderful authors scheduled simultaneously, that I was only able to experience a tiny sliver of what was going on. I traveled with a larger group this year - Kathleen and I were joined by fellow library staff member Robin and Donna, a long-time friend of mine. Catching the 8:06 AM bus and then taking the A train at Port Authority in Manhattan got us to BBF in about an hour and a half. This gave us some time to browse a few of the many booths set up by various publishers, small pressess and other literary organizations, including the very friendly people at the Mystery Writers of America booth; I received an especially warm welcome after I identified myself as a blogger for Dead Guy.
The rest of the day went something like this:
10:00 - 11:00 Kids on the Skids, featuring readings by Kevin Holohan, Tayari Jones and Justin Torres. We were especially interested in Justin because he is a relative of one of the members of our library's book discussion group. We were off to a good start.
11:00 - 12:00 The Good, the Bad, and the Family with readings by Elizabeth Nunez, Tom Perrotta and Sergio Troncoso. The acoustics in the room where this reading was held were atrocious - these authors deserved to be situated in a much better venue.
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch from gourmet trucks ( Desi Food Truck for Indian food, Frites 'N' Meats with kobe burgers, and Rickshaw Dumpling Truck), the likes of which I have never seen in New Jersey.
1:00 - 2:00 Waiting in line for tickets for one of the handful of events which was not open seating
2:00 - 3:00 World of Personal, with readings by Jonathan Safran Foer, Joyce Carol Oates, and Nina Revoyr. As always, Jonathan was awesome.
3:00 - 4:00 Gumshoes, with readings followed by excellent discussion and Q&A by Eoin Colfer and Walter Mosley. This time slot presented a particular dilemma for me because it also gave me the choice of going to The Urban Underbelly with Pete Hamill, Mikoma Wa Ngugi and Persia Walker. How did I make this decision? Although I very much wanted to see Pete Hamill, his presentation was scheduled for the crowded outdoor main stage while Colfer and Mosley were holding court in the magnificent (but also crowded) St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church. Being seated on a pew won out over standing in a crowd on the steps of the Brooklyn Court House. (During this hour,my friends decided to use this time to wander around some more by the booths. )
Interesting comments by Mosley included his understanding that crime fiction taps into an existential understanding of the "where and why" and which satisfies the reader's need for a distinction between what's right and wrong. He also said that the extreme popularity of crime fiction gives the author the opportunity to reach a much larger audience and vicariously take these readers into worlds that they might not otherwise get to see. He also pointed out that in writing a series, character development is extremely important while in a stand alone novel the subject matter requires that there be a definitive ending. I was also somewhat surprised to hear Mosley say that he considered his recent book, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey to be a literary rather than mystery novel.
Colfer humorously pointed out that one of the main differences between writing for adults and children was that in his books for younger readers he is required to avoid the use of a particular four syllable profanity. Like Mosley, he stressed that when a stand alone novel is done properly, there is no need to go back and revisit those same characters. Colfer also talked about the need for an author to make sure that his setting for a novel is authentic and brought up the fact that he chose New Jersey as the setting for Plugged, his latest novel, because he has been to New Jersey and therefore could write about it accurately. I found this comment to be very amusing since my September 11 blog criticized Colfer for getting the New Jersey setting of Plugged all wrong. It turns out that I was not the only one to feel this way - a book review of Plugged that appeared in the September 11 Star Ledger essentially said the same thing.
4:00 - 5:00 Defining the Moment: USA 2011: Where Are We? featuring some very left of center (this was Brooklyn, after all) discussion by Deborah Eisenberg, Fran Lebowitz (who was absolutely hilarious) and Wallace Shawn ( who, you may remember, played Annie Hall's ex-husband Jeremiah). I was in fear for my safety as I tried (only partially successfully) to hold seats for my friends who were meeting up with me for this program.
If this all sounds great, here's a very abbreviated list of some of the other authors who were there who we didn't get to see: Mary Karr, Colson Whitehead, Lawrence Block, Jonathan Santlofer, Arthur Phillips, Cory Doctorow, Adam Mansbach, Lynne Tillman, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nicole Krauss, Jules Feiffer, Larry McMurtry, Jennifer Egan, plus a whole bunch of children's authors.
Those of you out there who are writing crime novels should be heartened to know that the programs featuring mystery authors were scheduled for the larger venues and attracted a large number of people.
Oh, did I forget to mention that all of these programs were free?