13 September 2010

Stray Thoughts on the Brooklyn Book Festival, 2010

Books I most want to read from having seen their authors live: 1989 by Joshua Clover and A FORTUNATE AGE by Joanna Smith Rakoff.
Books I brought with me: 3. Uh, it's a long train ride? One of them was short?
Books I bought: 0, but not for want of selection! I was pleased to see Greenlight as one of the featured sellers -- they didn't even exist this time last year!
Funniest author not appearing on the "Finding the Funny" humor panel: Per Petterson (OUT STEALING HORSES, I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME) who was additionally challenged by working in a second language with troublesome microphones.
Funniest author appearing on the "Finding the Funny" humor panel: He faced stiff competition, but the award goes to John Hodgman for acting in a way that, were it any other panel, would make him look like an absolute asshole. He interrupted the moderator and tweaked meek "Daily Show" writer Rich Blomquist (co-author with Kristen Schaal of THE SEXY BOOK OF SEXY SEX) endlessly, true, but he also dismantled a VIP row before the show so a few more people could sit down in the audience. He was on a roll, and it was incredible.
Panels I made it to: 6 (and a tiny bit of a 7th). I was bummed not to end the day on the main stage, the way I did last year, but given that it was still raining then I was happy to be inside the spacious (if slightly creepy) St. Francis College building.
Biggest regret: Not getting myself together to hit the Jennifer Egan/ Colson Whitehead/ Steve Almond panel at 10AM.
Second biggest: That I hadn't cloned myself so I could wait for a Salman Rushdie ticket and watch the humor panel at the same time.

Best literary T-shirt:

That's an Orin Incandenza Cardinals jersey. The number is right. The number is even right. And yes, I followed him outside from the humor panel and creepily snapped his photo. Personal Hero, I will make amends to you.

Best person to call me a dork for attending: Comedian Mike Birbiglia, who himself has a book out next month (SLEEPWALK WITH ME AND OTHER PAINFULLY TRUE STORIES). I saw his one-man show twice so his tweet at me really backfired; I'm probably getting it framed.

Author I saw twice in one weekend which probably puts me on some watch list: Rob Sheffield, who participated in one of the "Bookend" events new to the fest this year aimed at extending the event to Friday and Saturday nights. (Awesome idea, by the way.) Before his music panel (with Clover and Ta-Nehisi Coates) on Sunday, Sheffield read from TALKING TO GIRLS ABOUT DURAN DURAN and DJ'd at the Bell House in Brooklyn. He read a section of his book about getting terrible advice from Morrissey, which was sadly fitting considering the deserved hot water Moz is in this week for saying something racist.

Best unexpected moment of clarity:
This was my fourth year attending (didn't write about 2007 but see '08, '09) and more than ever, I felt like I was seeing familiar faces even though I couldn't have named the people I saw. It's not an unpleasant feeling but a little disconcerting to see and recognize your sub-subculture in the flesh. I guess this is why people go to professional conferences? At the same time, these moments are somewhat rare in my world as I inch ever further away from "recent college graduate" status. Back then I took it for granted that I would always have people around me who were engaged with books and ideas; I didn't realize that sometimes you have to scrabble to find those people. And, as I let my alternate hippie personality really play through in this paragraph you've all stopped reading, I was grateful not only for the people I saw or ran into (including a girl I lived across the hall from in college! Small world!) during the day but even for the strangers who were sharing my enthusiasm, just so that I knew that they were out there.

Whew. Well, if you've bothered to read this far, sneak preview: Gonna write my review of FREEDOM and post it tomorrow. Additionally, for those of you who have also finished the book, there will be a post specifically so in the comments we can talk about the book with spoilers. (Don't worry, it will be extremely well marked if you wish to avoid it.)


8yearoldsdude said...

Those jerseys are around. It seems like a pretty expensive joke, but I guess you have to appluade the commitment.

on Zazzle or somesuch, there are also fake Enfield Tennis Acadamy t-shirts wtih "Stice," "incandenza" and others on the back.

Ellen said...

Yeah, I saw them on Neighborhoodies a while back. "Ever want to win the Whataburger Classic? How about memorize the Oxford English Dictionary front to back? Feel ornery about the situation in Quebec?"

Can't pretend I'm not tempted though. Part of the fun would be to casually wear it and see if anyone talks to you about it. Or just socially awkwardly follows you with smartphone aimed.