It’s that special time of year again, the time when all of Brooklyn Lit’s luminaries gather to talk about books. And more books. And even more books. But how do you decide what to go see when the choice is between hearing Emma Straub talk about her new novel or seeing Tony Danza conversing with Marty Markowitz? That’s the kind of Sophie’s Choice (now there’s a great Brooklyn book) you’re faced with at the Brooklyn Book Festival. So we’ve tried to help you by choosing our 20 Must Sees this year. It wasn’t easy, but we did it.
Who are we kidding, though? We weren't able to choose between Straub and Danza. So they're both on here and you'll have to decide for yourselves. Good luck. And enjoy! September 23rd is going to be a great day for Brooklyn Lit!
We also had the chance to talk to Johnny Temple, founder of Akashic Books, an independent publishing house based in Gowanus, and also, the Council Chair of the Book Fest. He told us what he’s looking forward to seeing and why Brooklyn is an amazing place to be involved in the literary world.
I’m really happy that Dennis Lehane is going to be there. Another author I’m really excited for is Edwidge Danticat. I’m also looking forward to Victor LaValle and and Ethiopian author, Maaza Mengiste.
What are some of the best books you’ve read in the last year?
One of the books is from an author who has been at the Book Fest in the past, and lathough she’s not here this year, I’m sure she’ll be back. Jaqueline Woodson wrote a YA novel called “Beneath A Meth Moon” that is a really fantastic novel. Another great one is by Akashic author Nathan Larson. It’s his second book, “The Nervous System.” I also really liked Victor LaValle’s book, “The Devil in Silver.” And I just read one of the first books that Walter Mosely, who is going to be at the festival, wrote, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” which was great.
What events are you most excited about?
I’m really excited about the event with Walter Mosely, Edwidge Danticat, and Dennis Lehane. They’re three of the biggest authors and they’re going to be talking about the challenges that face even veteran best-selling authors, how it continues to be a struggle even when you’re successful. I’m also looking forward to two programs we have focusing on the Caribbean, this year marks 50 years of independence for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. One of the programs is curated by Calabash International Literary Festival and the other by BOCAS, the Trinidadian lit festival. I’m just a big fan of Caribbean literature.
As the founder and head of Akashic Books, an independent publishing house, what do you think about the current state of independent book publishing? Is it much harder for the little guys with the existence of publishing behemoths and huge corporate entities like Amazon?
Actually, I think it’s a pretty great time for indie publishing. It’s related to the economic recession really. These big publishing companies have been crippled by lay-offs and so it’s not a pleasant time for major houses. Indies are flourishing because the talented authors that have been dropped from the big houses can find homes at smaller ones. Indie publishing has always been a fragile endeavor, we’re used to being scrappy, scraping by, and coming up with great ideas because of the challenges we’re perpetually facing. We’ve really made our mark with our ingenuity and will be able to navigate these times better than if we were the bigger publishing houses.
How does Brooklyn show its support for the literary world? How does that manifest itself in the Book Festival?
I’ve lived in Fort Greene since 1990 and I’ve noticed the changes over the years. When (independent bookstore) Greenlight came along it was a sign that things had changed. More and more publishing people live in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill and so more people are aware of the challenges that they (independent book sellers) have had, so there’s been a tremendous amount of community support. There’s a feeling in the community that we need to protect and nurture these places so they can succeed. Another thing is that at the Book Festival, all the independent vendors have been reporting high sales. Publishing houses sell their books and literary magazines sell subscriptions. This is exciting because the public is paying back the lit world for throwing this huge free festival/ It’s a two-way street where they get free programming. There’s a literary food chain and it’s a very precarious existence, but people are aware of it now.
2) Everything is personal these days right? And nothing is sacred. But how do you expose what's private without destroying it? We don't know! But these authors probably have some really interesting stuff to say on the subject.
11:00 A.M. Ice or Salt: The Personal in Fiction.
W.B. Yeats wrote, “All that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt.” Authors Siri Hustvedt (Living, Thinking, Looking), Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård (My Struggle) and Sheila Heti (How Should a Person Be?) will consider how writing technique—“ice or salt”—transforms the personal into art that connects to a broad audience. Moderated by Phillip Lopate. Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon Street)”
3) Kickstarter and comics and Molly Crabapple? Yes! This is Brooklyn self-publishing at its finest.
11:00 A.M. Comics by the People: Crowd-funding, Kickstarter, and the Future of Fan-supported Art.
Self-publishing in indie comics has a strong tradition and now Kickstarter has been called the #2 comics publisher in the US. What is the future of comics publishing? What are the benefits and challenges of directly fan-funded models? Molly Crabapple (Week in Hell), Spike Trotman (Poorcraft) and Jamie Tanner (The Black Well) discuss what works, what hasn’t and what’s to come. Moderated by Meaghan O’Connell, Kickstarter. Featuring screen projection. St. Francis Screening Room (180 Remsen Street)”
4) Brooklyn is one of the most diverse places on the planet. Identity politics are something that are always an issue of interest here. And Wesley Yang's piece "Paper Tigers" in NY Magazine was one of the best long reads we came across last year.
12:00 P.M. The Politics of Identity—Do They Still Matter?
As America grows more diverse, “minorities” will soon be the majority and this shift in demographics affects our culture and the ways we think about it. Can—and should—we move beyond the idea of race in America? Baratunde Thurston (How to Be Black), Rebecca Walker (Black Cool) and Wesley Yang (author of the New York magazine “Paper Tigers” and a forthcoming book on Asians in America) will interrogate the stereotypes we still have of each other, both positive and negative, and examine the ways we run from and cling to various aspects of identity, race, and heritage. Moderated by Amitava Kumar. St. Francis McCardle (180 Remsen Street)”
5) Even though children in Brooklyn can sometimes be terrible (or maybe it's just their parents?) this panel is going to be discussing the experiences of children in contemporary African literature. Fascinating.
12:00 P.M. Through the Eyes of a Child.
Join Somali-English author Nadifa Mohamed (Black Mamba Boy), Maaza Mengiste (Beneath the Lion’s Gaze) and Congo’s Emmanuel Dongala (Johnny Mad Dog and Little Boys Come from the Stars) for a conversation on contemporary African novels which explore themes of identity, memory and violence through child narrators. Moderated by Bhakti Shringarpure, Warscapes. Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)”
7) Tony Danza! He's so boss.
1:00 P.M. Tony Danza in Conversation with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Main Stage (Borough Hall Plaza)”
8) Everyone's been talking about Naomi Wolf's "Vagina" lately. Go hear Wolf talk about it firsthand.
2:00 P.M. Let’s Talk About Sex: Grappling with Gender in the 21st Century.
Is biology destiny? What does it mean today to be a man, a woman, or to feel somewhere in between? Naomi Wolf (Vagina: A New Biography), Carlos Andres Gomez (Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood) and Kate Bornstein (A Queer and Pleasant Danger) consider the role of sex and gender in culture today, how it makes us, and how we react to the trappings of gender put upon us by society at large. Moderated by Hanna Rosin (The End of Men). Main Stage (Borough Hall Plaza)”
9) Secrets! Learn how to tell and get rich off of all your friends' and family members' secrets without having them hate you forever!
2:00 P.M. Secrets Secrets Are Some Fun.
How does a writer decide what to keep from the characters, narrator, or audience? Elizabeth Crane (We Only Know So Much), John Burnham Schwartz (Northwest Corner) and Kurt Andersen (True Believers) discuss how they tell secrets, but they won’t tell them all! Moderated by Ben Greenman (What He’s Poised to Do) St. Francis McCardle (180 Remsen Street)”
10) Hosted by Johnny Temple,who runs the whole damn show that is the Brooklyn Book Fest, this is a great opportunity to hear some of Brooklyn's best authors all at once.
2:00 P.M. Literary Lions.
Readings by award winning authors Pete Hamill (Tabloid City), Edwidge Danticat (Create Dangerously) and Paul Auster (Winter Journal). Whether their point of view is a palimpsest of Brooklyn fiction or set in other places, they have each lived in Brooklyn and been influenced by it. Followed by Q & A. Introduced by Johnny Temple, Publisher, Akashic Books and Chair of the Brooklyn Literary Council. Saint Ann and the Holy Trinity Church (157 Montague Street)”
Photo Allison Michael Orenstein
12) Three remarkable authors and an introduction by Rob Spillman of the awesome Tin House. You will feel like a dweeb if you don't go to this. Nobody likes to feel like a dweeb, do they?
3:30 P.M. A Fiction Triumvirate: McFadden, Oates, Whitehead.
Three of America’s finest authors read from their work, followed by Q & A. Bernice L. McFadden, Joyce Carol Oates and Colson Whitehead. Introduced by Rob Spillman, Tin House. Saint Ann and the Holy Trinity Church (157 Montague Street)”
13) Brooklyn is in great shape. Other cities are not. Though, probably, the rent is lower. Hear about some of those cities at this panel. Feel bad for those cities, but then remember how much your rent costs and start feeling a little bad for yourself.
4:00 P.M. Tales of a Few Cities.
While New York and other cities have survived the Great Recession, cities like Camden teeter on the brink of collapse. Which cities will thrive in the new economy? Who (or what) will rescue the places in decline? Chris Hedges (Days of Destruction) analyzes Camden; David Harvey (Rebel Cities) explains the fate of New York and other global powerhouse cities; Mark Binelli (upcoming Detroit City is the Place to Be) reflects on Detroit. Moderated by former NY Times columnist and Demos fellow Bob Herbert. Moderated by Ted Hamm. Brooklyn Historical Society Library (128 Pierrepont Street)”
14) Woody Guthrie lived much of the later years of his life out on Coney Island. Celebrate Guthrie's life and music during the 100 year anniversary of his birth.
4:00 P.M. Woody Guthrie—This Land is His Land.
This year marks the 100th centennial of the birth of Woody Guthrie. Nora Guthrie (My Name Is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s Town) and Robert Santelli (This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folk Song) in conversation about his life and influence. North Stage (Borough Hall Plaza/Columbus Park)”
15) Do you ever wish you lived in NY in the 80s? When it was all dirty and humming with creativity? And rats? Well, I'll tell you, it was pretty great. Hear more about that from all these amazing authors. Try not to get too upset that you missed it.
4:00 P.M. Creative Life in NYC - Art, Music and Creative Culture in the 70’s 80’s and Beyond.
James Wolcott (Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York), Nile Rodgers (Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny) and Cynthia Carr (Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz) discuss art, music, and creativity in NYC through the decades. Moderated by Will Hermes (Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever). Brooklyn Law School Student Lounge”
16) Apparently, it's super easy to get published these days. But, uh, how do you make money from it? Anyone? Anyone? No? Hmmm.
4:00 P.M. So, You Want to Publish a Book?
It’s never been so easy to publish your own book. Many thousands of writers have done it and some successfully. But before you hit “upload,” come listen to four of the book industry's top editors and publishers discuss the issues facing authors in 2012. Reagan Arthur (Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown), Pamela Dorman (Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin), Sean McDonald (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Jane Friedman (Open Road Integrated Media) will discuss what goes into the making of a successful book. Moderated by Ann Rittenberg. St. Francis McCardle (180 Remsen Street)”
17) Why are women such bitches? That's the point of this panel, I think. My answer? Because it's fun and it gets you stuff. Let's see if any of the authors here feel the same way!
5:00 P.M. Enduring Unlikable Women.
Elissa Schappell (Blue Print), Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and Dana Spiotta (Stone Arabia) write difficult, complex female characters. Join these authors in a reading and discussion that looks at the bad boy and the unlikable woman in literature and how they are reviled or celebrated by their audience and creators. Moderated by Meredith Walters, Brooklyn Public Library. St. Francis Screening Room (180 Remsen Street)”
18) New York is a big city. Lots of people live here. What are their lives like? Find out!
5:00 Here in New York.
Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) chronicles the lives of the Upper East Side’s elite; Charles Rice-Gonzalez (Chulito) tells the coming-of-age story of a group of South Bronx teenagers discovering their sexual orientation, and Nathan Larson (The Dewey Decimal System) deals with the collapse of Wall Street and its effect on a dirty lawyer. One city, many lives. Moderated by Philip Leventhal. Main Stage (Borough Hall Plaza)”
19) Something I learned in middle school was that poetic prose is a good thing and prosaic poetry is a bad thing. I bet this discussion will be much more in-depth that what I learned from my middle-school English teacher. Check it out!
5:00 P.M. The Poet Novelist.
Poets and novelists Ben Lerner (Leaving the Atocha Station), Eileen Myles (Inferno: A Poet’s Novel) and Sapphire (The Kid) explore the boundaries, possibilities, divergences and intersections of poetry and prose. Moderated by Camille Rankine, Manhattanville College. St. Francis McCardle (180 Remsen Street)”
20) Marriage and Sex. Do these two things go together? Sure they do! They must! Or else all hope is lost. Or something.
5:00 P.M. Marriage and Monogamy.
With marriage equality on everyone’s lips, it still seems valid to ask the question, “Why marriage?” and “Why monogamy?” Our authors weigh monogamy, marriage, its alternatives, and what it all means for how we live today. Syndicated sex columnist and author of The Commitment, Dan Savage has advocated “monogam-ish” relationships; anthropologist Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. (Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality), argues that monogamy isn't inherent to humans; Kristin Davis (The Manhattan Madam’s Guide to Sex), aka “The Manhattan Madam,” will provide her insights into the tangled web of sex and commitment; and Eric Klinenberg (Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone) examine what these changing attitudes look like at a societal level. Moderated by Kate Bolick (upcoming Among the Suitors: Single Women I Have Loved). Saint Ann and the Holy Trinity Church (157 Montague Street)”