The Review: PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature

The 2012 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature began today and I’m ridiculously excited!    What’s that… don’t know about the 2012 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature (the name doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?)? Queue up the official description –

April 30–May 6, 2012

100 Writers from 25 Countries
Writers from around the world convene in New York City to celebrate the power of the written word in action. Engage with literature in bold and unexpected ways and discover how words can be amplified through music, theater, puppetry, film, and much more. Marking PEN American Center’s 90th anniversary, this year’s festival features performances, discussions, one-on-one conversations, and readings. The Standard, New York and The Standard, East Village along with the High Line are the Festival hubs, with venues crisscrossing the city, from Harlem to Wall Street, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA.

I’ve spent months planning and refining our itinerary…  that’s right, there’s an itinerary! All done up in Google Calendar, complete with directions & reminders – synced to the cell phone. Lori @TNBBC will be my faithful & ever patient partner in crime.  Here are the events we’re looking forward to.

Thursday, 5/3

(12:30-1:30PM) – Lunch Lit Conversation: Noëlle Revaz – OK, to be honest I just picked this one because it filled in some time. All I know about Noëlle Revaz I learned from the description of this event:  she’s a Swiss author and her novel With the Animals is being released in English this month by Dalkey Archive Press.

(3-5PM) – Herta Müller on Silence – The 2009 Nobel Laureate has two events at the festival, probably due to the release of The Hunger Angel (her first novel since winning the prize) in English.  This one is being held at the Deutsches Haus.  She’ll be reading her 2001 Lecture to the Swedish Academy in Stockholm in German with an English translator.   The description recommended calling ahead to reserve seating as there is limited room, so my hope is that this will be a smaller and more intimate crowd.

(6-7:30PM) The first scheduling conflict – and it’s breaking my heart.  There are two fantastic events being held in the same time slot:  the Iranian author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, whose AMAZING novel The Colonel (Melville House) I am currently devouring, will be reading at the Bowery Poetry Club.  At the same time there will be an amazing panel discussing Reviewing Translations (which definitely would come in handy!)

(8PM) – Understanding Egypt is probably past our curfew, but it looks likes a fascinating exploration of the recent revolution and what it means.  This event, along with Marjane Satrapi talk & screening at MOMA, are the  2 events I’m disappointed at possibly having to miss.

Friday, 5/4

(5-6PM) The Best Translated Book Award winner is being announced at McNally Jackson Bookshop (preceded by an authors meet & greet).  Immediately afterwards is A Literary Safari:  a visit to NYC’s oldest artist community where you get to wander in and out of the artists’ studios.  Authors will be giving readings and there will be a closing party at the Westbeth Artist Gallery.

Since these events don’t start until the evening I’m hoping to take in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, & Later South Asia.  And maybe even squeeze in a trip to the Melville House Bookstore in Brooklyn.

Saturday, 5/5

(1-3PM) The Best European Fiction panel will have three International authors reading and discussing their work:  Noëlle Revaz (Switzerland), Patrick Boltshauser (Liechtenstein), & Róbert Gál (Slovakia).

(6-7:30PM) The Liar Show – Lori @TNBBC found this event and it looks like a lot of fun.  It takes place at the Cornelia Street Cafe, and is described as 4 Storytellers. 3 True Stories. 1 Pack of Lies.

Sunday, 5/6

This day turned into a bit of a bust.  I bought tickets when they were first posted for A Conversation with Stéphane Hessel and Edgar Morin.  But that was cancelled due to “their participation in the May 6th election in France”.  It was replaced with a more interactive, audience participation event centering around the Occupy Movement.  While I support the Occupy Movement, I’m not sure this one is for me.  I may skip it and check out the Weegee exhibit at the International Center of Photography – Murder is My Business.  Weegee was a photojournalist who specialized in crime scenes and news stories in the 30’s & 40’s.  This show screams hard-boiled detective fiction and crime noir.  It’s one I’m absolutely dying to see.

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BookSexy BEA Survival Guide

Book Expo America (BEA) 2011 is happening at the end of the month and if you’re on Twitter there’s several hashtags going around with updates and excited chatter.  A small flurry of Tweeters at the hashtags #BEA11 & #BookExpo asked for some tips on what to bring, where to go, how to dress.  So, if you’re attending BEA this year, here’s my advice.

What to Wear

Dress nice, but be comfortable.  Avoid jeans & t-shirts.  Think business casual.  But the most important thing to remember is to wear something that you’re comfortable & confident in.  Because you’re going to be walking up to and starting conversations with a lot of strangers.  For me, that means heels for at least the first day, when I’m visiting the various publishers’ booths.  I know most people say to wear comfortable shoes…  and I make sure mine are well broken in (I’m not recommending stilettos!). My reason? I’m 5′-4″.  I like the extra height heels give me the ability to see over the crowds.  It’s probably not the most sensible thing in the world, but it works for me.  Find what works for you.

What to Bring to the Javits Center

Travel light.  The tragic truth is (something I learned the first time I moved):  books are heavy.  The Javits Center is huge.  You’re going to do a lot of walking so you don’t want to be weighed down anymore than necessary.  So stick to the basics.   Pre-print the schedule of events and autographing authors. Highlight the ones you want to see.  Bring a pen (I like fine point Sharpies), a small pad (Moleskines Rock!), and business cards (LOTS of business cards).  I try to throw a few granola bars into my bag, as well, since I forget to stop to eat when I’m busy.  And try to bring a SmartPhone.

The SmartPhone. 

If you have a SmartPhone prep it beforehand.  Get an app for your blog & email (eliminates the need to lug around your laptop or netbook).  Set up a Twitter account if you don’t have one already and follow the hashtags.  If you can sync your Google Calendar to your phone, do it – it’s a great way to set reminders for where you want to be, when.  Clear your photos – make sure you have enough room in your memory for new photos and that your flash is on.  Bring your charger.  (If you’re a blogger you get access to the Press Lounge, which provides a spot to plug-in and re-charge).  And don’t forget to download a NYC Subway Map app…it helps.  Even native New Yorkers use the subway maps.  And having it will come in handy for my next post in this series (there will be 3 posts total), which will list my Top 10 BookSexy Tips on What To Do Outside of BEA.

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Every so often I take a trip into NYC to visit friends.  Ostensibly.  My friends would probably tell you that every so often I take a trip into NYC to drag them from one indie bookshop to another.   (No one complains, but I have detected some good-natured eye rolling. I’m always the first to say that I’m VERY fortunate in my friends).

In honor of the upcoming BookExpo America and the affiliated Book Bloggers Convention (see the sidebar) I’ll be highlighting some  of my favorite NYC Indie Bookshops during the month of May… the first of which is McNally Jackson on Prince Street.

I was over-the-moon excited to discover this new bookshop only 2 weeks ago on one of those aforementioned visits.  How did I find it?  Thank you for asking!  You see, I needed a raincoat.  My BGF and I headed for Soho to do some thrift shopping – and on the way we dropped into the RRL Ralph Lauren Men’s  Store (just because it’s awesome).   I asked a sales person  where the nearest bookshop was located.  He told us to stay on Prince and we’d find one a few blocks down on our left… which is exactly what happened!  (Lesson:  NEVER hesitate to ask locals for recommendations or directions.  New Yorker’s love their city, and love to share it).

So why, on such a short acquaintance, am I singing the praises of McNally Jackson?  Is it the cafe? The comfy chairs conveniently located everywhere?  The blog or the list of author events that has me envious of the locals able to attend on a whim?  What about the nifty bookmark that conveniently has space on the back for notes? (I am a complete bookmark snob, by the way, and McNally Jackson’s is in my Top 10).

Actually, it’s all those things.  Added to that, McNally Jackson has a fantastic selection of International Literature.  International Lit seems to be their niche, with the shelves in fiction organized by authors’ home country.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.  They patiently helped me track down a copy of Ismail’s Kadare’s Three Arched Bridge (shelved in European Fiction).  I was also looking for Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour.  They looked it up on their computer and found out it was between hardcover and paperback printings – the paperback is due out in June, which they offered to pre-order for me. (I managed to score a used copy at the Housing Works before catching my bus home).  I rounded out my purchases with Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazzah Street which I was able to find all by myself in British Fiction.

McNally Jackson now forms the third part of what I have dubbed the “Bookshop Triumvirate” – along with The Housing Works Used Bookshop on Crosby Street and The Strand on Broadway.

And remember that raincoat?  Well, my BGF refused to let me leave the city without one.  She found me a short, military style jacket in a trench material that fit perfectly.  I wasn’t kidding, I really am lucky when it comes to friends.

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