15 September 2009

More on the Brooklyn Book Festival

A few stray thoughts that didn't fit into yesterday's quotation round-up...

This was my third year going to the festival and I'm a big fan -- really pleasant to kick off the fall with a proper nerd-out. I always wonder why Manhattan hasn't tried to steal this idea out of the clutches of its fellow borough, but I only assume if it did, it would be held on a weekday during work hours, tickets would be $200 and there would be no free bookmarks left after 9AM. (What? I can knock it, I live here.)

Simply by virtue of being there early for the Updike/DFW panel, I squeezed in more talks this year than previous years when I came in later. If there's one thing I thought could be improved about those, it's that some of the panel topics were not very useful or weren't what the panelists really wanted to talk about. I don't know how authors or commentators are grouped for these talks, but it wasn't always clear whether they really wanted to talk about that or something else.

To take an example of an event I still enjoyed: The "Literature in a Digital Age" consisted of Times critic Dwight Garner (who also wrote a book about book advertising in America), the yesterday-quoted John Freeman (who also wrote a book called THE TYRANNY OF E-MAIL) and Sarah Schmelling, a new author whose book OPHELIA JOINED THE GROUP MAIDENS WHO DON'T FLOAT adapts classic literature to the Facebook status-feed format. The way it played out was that Freeman would say something like "Authors are not meant to be public personas" and criticize new-media publicity, and then Schmelling would say "Well, I use those things, they've turned out all right for me." Then Garner would say something about how Alfred Kazin caused the trend of literary celebrity, and no one would dispute it so they would just end there till Maud Newton (very capably) jumped in with a new topic.

I think Schmelling was a little uncomfortable, as anyone might have been, speaking for The 21st Century Author; perhaps adding another author up there, a blog-to-book adapter or someone else who had run more online publicity, would have struck a better balance. Freeman was on fire, though, so maybe it wouldn't have helped.

I didn't hit a lot of the booths, and I didn't get to the all-new Comic-Con section of the fest, although I saw someone reading a collection by Kate Beaton of Dude Watchin' With The Bront√ęs fame and it made me happy. If you went, what was your favorite event? What authors are you looking forward to checking out now?

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