Brooklyn Book Fest ’11 Re-Cap

Sunday was the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival.  The weather was beautiful, the turn-out great and don’t get me started on the food trucks (I ♥ @fritesnmeats ).  Lori from @TNBBC drove us into the city (Thanks Lori!) and I think I can speak for both of us when I say it was a blast!

So what were the highlights?  Prepare yourself for Parentheses OVERLOAD!

5 minutes in…literally 5 minutes… I spotted the Akashic Books booth.  I know next to nothing about Akashic Books (they published Go the F*ck to Sleep) .  But I fell in love with their Noir Series of city anthologies and had to buy two.  ($10.00 each!  Most tables had books discounted, which was awesome!).  The first book, Brooklyn Noir, was published in 2004.  Since then the series has grown to 50-something books… I tried to count them all on their website but it was too much work.  Akashic is committed to keeping the books authentic – which means that many of the stories are written by native authors and translated into English.  I am now the proud owner of Haiti & Havana Noir. (Don’t Ask! I’ve no idea why I got stuck in the H’s).  And I saw Mumbai Noir on the Akashic website… which I wishlisted.

Lori & I, between the two of us, attended a fair number of panels… 5 in all.  The first was at 11AM – Radical Fictions – presented by The Housing Works (one of my favorite bookshops).  It featured readings by Jennifer Gilmore, David Goodwillie & Justin Taylor.  Lori was there for Justin, but I’d circled this one in advance because I was interested in the counter-culture vibe.  Of the three it was Goodwillie’s reading from his novel, American Subversive, that really grabbed my attention. Onto my GoodReads wishlist it went. (This is the part when I tell you how freakin’ awesome the GoodReads app for the droid phone is!  Seriously. It made keeping track of the books I wanted sooo much easier.  You can type in a search or – if you can figure out a way to do this without looking shifty, which I haven’t so feel free to share – scan the barcode to bring up the book instantly).

Next stop: Borough Hall.  The lines were huge.  Lori and I had planned ahead to split here… she met up with Levi Asher (Literary Kicks Blog) and they went to Apocalypse Now, and Then What?  Tananarive Due (who two women RAVED about when we were on line getting the tickets), Patrick Somerville & Colson Whitehead were on this panel which was moderated by Paul Morris.  I went on my own to see Walker In the City, moderated by Edmund White.  Sergio Chejfec (with his lovely translator Margaret B. Carson) were the draw for me, but I was happily surprised by the readings of the two authors I wasn’t familiar with – Geoff Nicholson & Teju Cole.Edmund White was an excellent moderator… is there anything literary-related this man doesn’t do well?  Not only did the authors have time to read from their books, but he asked them really interesting and (even more rare) relevant questions.  Nicholson, in addition to being an author, also blogs at The Hollywood Walker.  Teju Cole did an amazing job discussing and reading his new book Open City (he called it an exploration in subtle asshole-ness)  which led to my second purchase of the day. (For those keeping track: yes I bought the 2 Noir books.  But I bought them at the same time which equals 1 purchase.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it).  Overall, though there wasn’t time for audience questions (which in my opinion are over-rated and tend to suck) Walker in the City surpassed my high expectations.

Afterwards I had my books signed by Sergio Chejfec, Margaret Carson & Teju Cole.  Then Lori & I had the chance to chat with Levi – always a treat.  Turns out Levi is a bit of a history buff… so we bored Lori for a bit talking about the George Washington autobiography Levi just finished (he really was a great guy), Benjamin Franklin (McCullough’s book gave him a bad rap), my obsession with the history of disease (Yellow Fever & The Spanish Influenza are particular favorites) and our general thoughts on the book festival so far.  After which we went our separate ways.  Well, Levi went his separate way – Lori and I went to visit more booths.

My favorite thing about the Brooklyn Book Festival are the small independent publishers. These guys are the heart and soul of Fall book festivals.  We stopped by Overlook Press (no word on the new Moer’s book), Europa & New Directions (wish-listed The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya), A Public Space, Melville House (wish-listed The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto), and a bunch of others.  I had intended to spend more time at the periodical tables – BookForum (see my review later this week on their Japanese Lit Magazine Monkey Business), NYRB, & The Paris Review among others –  but they’re there to sign up subscribers and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.  I’m sure what I want to know is on the websites.

We also stopped at Coach House Books – another favorite publisher based out of Canada.  There I purchased Isobel & Emile by Alan Reed because of the quirkily-stilted writing style.  Monoceros, another of their novels, also looked very interesting and went onto the wishlist.

Lori took me to two more panels, both on short stories, Getting To It and Getting Trough It and Short and Sweet (And Sour).  I probably wouldn’t have gone to these without her. I’m so glad that I did (even though it took us 3 different buildings to find the former!).  The panel standouts were Alan Heathcock’s powerful reading (the best I heard this year) of a short story from his collection Volt – which had him sounding more than a little like a Baptist preacher – and Amelia Gray’s hilarious readings from her Flash Fiction collection AM/PM.  Prior to Gray’s reading I was completely unfamiliar with flash fiction. Now I can’t wait to read more (recommendations anyone?).

And that’s about it, folks… other than an incredible burger from the Frites and Meats food truck (grass-fed beef cooked perfectly medium rare, goat cheese, a crazy-good homemade sauce and spring mix on a chiabatta, and these fries with garlic mayo sauce to dip in) right before we hopped the train back to PABT there’s nothing left to report.

Can’t wait to do it all again next year!

What I bought:

What I wish-listed:

2011 MAN BOOKER LONG LIST IS ANNOUNCED…& guess who made it on???

The long list was announced this Tuesday.  Did you notice #4???

  • Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending
  • Sebastian Barry On Canaan’s Side
  • Carol Birch Jamrach’s Menagerie
  • Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues
  • Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats
  • Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger’s Child
  • Stephen Kelman Pigeon English
  • Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days
  • A.D. Miller Snowdrops
  • Alison Pick Far to Go
  • Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb
  • D.J. Taylor Derby Day

I’ve been interested in Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman since seeing it in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt catalogue.  And I always love Julian Barnes. But, no surprise, my vote goes to The Sisters Brothers.

Anyone else have a longlist favorite?

11-ish Things I Learned at BEA 2011

In no particularly order –

  • The HarperCollins team is just as awesome in real life as they are in emails & on twitter. They publish great books AND they throw a hell of a party.  What more can you ask for?
  • Have you seen the vlog, Books Are My Boyfriends? If not, you need to!  Kit is exactly like that in real life. Super friendly, super upbeat and a lot of fun to be around.
  • Margaret Atwood’s agent, a  sweet woman who has worked with Ms. Atwood for decades, calls her “Peggy”.
  • If you get a tattoo of the Two Dollar Radio logo – which is a nifty, retro line drawing of a radio – they give you their entire collection of books for free. F-R-E-E. That’s their entire backlist, plus all the new books they publish as long as the company is in business. But you need to provide proof. Two Dollar Radio, you’ll be hearing from me soon…
  • Greg Olear, author of Totally KillerFather-Mucker (coming out in October) and Senior Editor at The Nervous Breakdown is almost as obsessed with Stephen Colbert as I am. He may disagree. We’ll be arm wrestling BEA 2012 to determine who loves Stephen more. That is, unless one of us can produce an actual restraining order with both Stephen and your name on it (might as well clarify the rules up front) before then.
  • Chuck Palahniuk may be the nicest person on the planet. Seriously. He signed 175 galleys of his new book (as reported by @andrewtshaffer), all personalized, had something nice to say to everyone, never stopped smiling AND posed for pictures. Don’t think that makes him nice?  Imagine how many times he probably had to listen to “The first rule of BEA…”

    "I'm so glad you loved CHOKE.... here, have a seed packet"
  • Speaking of lines. When Random House organizes a line, they ORGANIZE a line. And nobody f#@!$ with the Random House line…. *low and menacing voice*no-body.
  • You need to be following Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness & Anastasia from Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.  They’re amazing.  Kim is my go-to girl for Non-Fiction. Anastasia is a YA guru.
  • Less than 400 translations are published yearly in the U.S., including technical manuals. That’s right, the instructions for your cell phone and the pictograph telling you how to put together your IKEA LACK table are part of that number.
  • Romance authors get slightly offended when you tell them you don’t review romances, particularly if you mention your blog is named BookSexy Review.
  •  Levi Asher & I cornered Evil Wylie  (O.K., so he didn’t look all that cornered. In fact he looked quite comfortable, smiling and with a drink in hand. He even gave me a button.) and questioned him on why Simone de Beauvoir & Jean Paul Sartre made it into Andrew Shaffer’s new book on Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love. He makes a strong and convincing case on why they belong there, despite what those French Canadians say.
  • Levi Asher is now publishing the equivalent to small chapbooks on the Amazon Kindle. I just bought Why Ayn Rand is Wrong (& Why It Matters). His blog Literary Kicks is probably the oldest literary blog in the country and Levi is my personal blogger icon. If you are looking for a smart discussion of literature & philosophy (& who isn’t?) Litkicks is the place to be.
  • Did you hear about my amazing reunion with Lori from The Next Best Book Blog… all thanks to Book Expo 2011 & Random House?  That’s right, they’re not just “Bringing you the best in fiction, nonfiction & children’s books”... they’re bringing people together. (Hallmark, watch out!)
  • Rachel from A Home Between Pages and I had an incredibly awkward introduction/conversation at that same Random House party. But she eventually forgave me (I think).  In person, she is the Goddess of Snarkiness.  I will be following her like our parents followed The Grateful Dead.
  • The entire population of Iceland is now writing thrillers. Fortunately the entire population consists of only 318,452 people.
  • And, finally, I have seen the shy & elusive Reading Ape
from left to right: Books Are My Boyfriends, the fabulous Margaret Atwood & her lovely agent, The Next Best Book Blog (& Club, for you Goodreads fans), and BookSexy Review

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The 2011 Man Booker International Prize. Judge for Yourself!

The Man Booker International Prize 2011 finalists were announced yesterday. It’s more of  a “lifetime” achievement award, so no real dark horses to send us all scurrying to Wikipedia for bios and bibliographies.  The general consensus is that it’s a good list, – one likely to give the three judges some sleepless nights between now and May 18th.

  • Wang Anvi (China)
  • Juan Goytisolo (Spain)
  • James Kelman (Scotland)
  • John le Carré (Great Britain)
  • Amin Maalouf (Lebanon)
  • David Malouf (Australia)
  • Dacia Maraini (Italy)
  • Rohinton Mistry (India/currently living in Canada)
  • Philip Pullman (Great Britain)
  • Marilynne Summers Robinson (U.S.A.)
  • Philip Roth (U.S.A.)
  • Su Tong (China)
  • Anne Tyler (U.S.A.)

It looks a bit like the World Cup, except that the U.S. might actually have a shot this year of taking it home.  Especially since John le Carré has informed the judges that he doesn’t “compete”. It didn’t do him much good, the powers that be refused to accept his non-acceptance.  Still, it’s made his name the most buzz-worthy on the list for now.

But it’s still anybody’s game, folks.  At the time I am typing up this post, William Morris (that noble British institution) has yet to post the odds.  So…quickly… who would you be willing to put money on?  I’ll even allow for write-ins.


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