Born April 12, 1933, Yoshio Aramaki’s writing comes to us from a different time. His novel The Sacred Era, originally published in Japanese in 1978, has more in common with classic American sci-fi short story writers like Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury—sharing their preoccupation with wonky metaphysics, biblical allegories, and performative misogyny—than with speculative fiction writers working in the present day. He leads readers down the same well-trodden genre path where impoverished young men discover they are, despite an often remarkable lack of initiative, destined for great things. But Aramaki’s brilliant leaps of imagination and use of experimental, non-linear plot structures are too ambitious for the resulting work to be dismissed as outdated or derivative.
Read my full review of Yosio Aramaki’s novel, The Sacred Era, over at the Quarterly Conversation.
The Brooklyn Book Festival is happening Sunday, September 23rd. This year’s schedule is very exciting! There are several panels – more than I can remember seeing in past years’ schedules – dealing specifically with International authors & translated lit. England (see The London Review of Books), Central & North Africa, India, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago are all represented. Almost all of them conveniently located in the Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room. Below is a quick list (copied & pasted right from the schedule) of the panels which caught my eye.
- 10:00 A.M. The London Review of Books presents The Novel and the City, a conversation about literature and the urban imagination with Mexican author Alvaro Enrigue, and cultural writer Christine Smallwood. Moderated by Adam Shatz, London Review of Books. – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
- 10:00 A.M. Home Is Not A Place. Four authors read and discuss their books whose protagonists are challenged to create and negotiate their identity in a new homeland–a journey fraught with confusion, rebellion and uncertain outcomes. Graphic novelist Leela Corman (Unterzakhn), and authors Patricia Engel (Vida), Luis Alberto Urrea (Into the Beautiful North)and Jose Manuel Prieto (Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire).Moderated by Tiphanie Yanique (How to Escape from a Leper Colony) – Saint Francis Screening Room (180 Remsen Street)
- 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)
- 1:00 P.M. From the Ruins of Empire. Leading Indian writers Pankaj Mishra (From the Ruins of Empire: the Intellectuals Who Remade Asia) and Siddhartha Deb (The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India) read from their books and discuss the modern world and the East, and the movements and personalities that helped shape both – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
- 1:00 P.M. Humanity in the Age of the Cyborg and Higgs Boson. The ancient question “What is the Self?” gets a new twist with the rise of nanotechnology, biotechnology and “smart” robots that increasingly assume functions previously handled by human muscle and mind. How do we define consciousness and existence in the age of cyborg bodies and artificial intelligence? Siri Hustvedt (Living, Thinking, Looking), Jim Holt (Why Does the World Exist) and Andrew Blum (Tubes) discuss mutating selfhood and what still makes us human. Moderated by Greg Milner – Brooklyn Historical Society Library (128 Pierrepont Street)
- 2:00 P.M. Calabash Presents. Jamaica’s legendary Calabash International Literary Festival celebrates 50 years of Jamaican independence with readings by premier Jamaican-born novelists and poets Chris John Farley (Kingston Noir), Jacqueline Bishop (Snapshots from Istanbul),and Ishion Hutchinson (Far District).Moderated by Calabash co-founder Kwame Dawes – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
- 3:00 P.M. BOCAS Presents. Trinidad’s groundbreaking annual NGC Bocas Literary Festival comes to Brooklyn to celebrate 50 years of Trinidad & Tobago independence with readings by Earl Lovelace (Is Just a Movie), Victoria Brown (Minding Ben) and Anton Nimblett (Sections of an Orange). Moderated by Nicholas Laughlin, BOCAS organizer and editor of the Caribbean Review of Books – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
- 3:00 P.M. Power to the People: Grassroots Revolution in the Post Hope Era What’s the connection between social change and electoral politics? Does the hope we can truly believe in come from the ground up? And what can we learn from the peoples’ revolutions from around the globe? Tariq Ali (The Obama Syndrome), Todd Gitlin (Occupy Nation), and Marina Sitrin (Everyday Revolutions) will discuss the necessity and effectiveness of individual action in the political sphere. Moderated by Laura Flanders (The Nation) – Brooklyn Historical Society Library (128 Pierrepont Street)
- 4:00 P.M. Reality Denied. Science Fiction authors Carla Speed McNeil (Finder: Voice), Lev Grossman (The Magician King), Hillary Jordan (When She Woke) and Terry Bisson (Fire on the Mountain) read and discuss their books, which are part-medieval, part-magical, part-historical, part-apocalyptic and all reality bending! Moderated by literary agent Seth Fishman – Saint Francis Screening Room (180 Remsen Street)
- 5:00 P.M. The PEN Translation Committee Presents North African Writing in the Wake of the Arab Spring. Noted translators, editors and poets Pierre Joris (Exile Is My Trade: a Habib Tengour Reader), Deborah Kapchan (Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition) and Peter Thompson (A Passenger from the West by Nabile Farès) explore the effects of the Arab uprisings in North Africa on poetry and narratives and discuss their recent works in translation. Moderated by Nathalie Handal (Language of a New Century: Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond) – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
- 5:00 P.M. The Center for Fiction Presents Beyond Earth. From alternate histories to entire universes these writers create intricate worlds for their readers to explore. Naomi Novik (Temeraire series), N.K. Jemisin (the Inheritance trilogy), Rick Bowes (From the Files of the Time Rangers) and Catherynne M. Valente (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) will read brief selections from their work and discuss the art of world-building in fantasy writing and beyond. Moderated by Noreen Tomassi (The Center for Fiction) – Brooklyn Historical Society Library (128 Pierrepont Street)
The events highlighted in that pretty shade of lavender? You probably noticed they’re all science fiction related. They (and the promise of food trucks) were just the leverage I needed to get my husband to agree to spending the day in the city. Book festivals aren’t really his thing, but he’s a bit of a foodie and a definite sci-fi geek, so what you’re witnessing is a compromise in action.
If you’re in NYC that weekend it’s (in theory) only a quick subway ride from Manhattan – and worth every delayed train, local stop and transfer. So, do any of these panels look good to you? Or did you see something on the official schedule that I missed? Leave a comment below.