16 September 2007

Brooklyn Book Festival

Tempest and I spent the day at the Brooklyn Book Festival, mostly just wandering around harrassing various vendors. I finally got to meet Hannah Tinti, editor of One Story, in person, and she told me about the Save the Short Story project, and even got a picture of me reading Calvin Baker's "Dominion", a very fine story indeed.

We also got to meet Tom Roberge of A Public Space, another person I'd exchanged plenty of emails with, but had not yet encountered in person. I convinced Tempest to subscribe, which was one of my better accomplishments of the day. There are only a few magazines I really wouldn't want to be without for even one issue, and A Public Space is one such magazine.

Gavin Grant and Jed Berry manfully manned the Small Beer Press table. Tempest and I had discussed the fact that there haven't been any good, physical literary fights recently -- plenty of internet flamewars and such, but nobody actually punching somebody out -- and so we tried to convince Gavin that he should start such a fight, perhaps at the upcoming World Fantasy Convention, but he didn't like the idea, citing certain impracticalities and long-range effects. (Why do people have to be sensible and ruin our grand plans for entertainment?)

I tried to find Richard Nash of Soft Skull Press to catch up with him, since we haven't had a chance to chat for a while, but he was off watching some hockey game or something involving steel. I thought for a while that this was just a ploy to get me to go away and stop scaring customers away from the Soft Skull table, but Ed got the same info.

(Except I never saw Ed. Sure, there were 10,000 people at the festival, but still. If anybody can stand out amidst 10,000 people, it's Ed. I think one of us doesn't exist. Actually, during the entire day the only litblogger I encountered was Levi Asher. I think they were all hiding from me. Or wearing disguises. After all, it took me a moment to recognize Levi...)

Tempest and I had lunch at a wonderful place serving wraps and smoothies, a bunch of blocks away from the festival, down some roads. (Brooklyn remains a mystery to me.) We had many fun moments during lunch, but one particularly fun one for me was watching somebody reading today's Times, utterly engrossed by Maria Headley's amusing and touching essay about being a stepmonster. I restrained myself from going up to the poor, unwitting soul and screaming like a little girl, "Hey, I know her! She's great! Omygawd you're reading her essay!!!" It took a lot of self-denial and inner strength to avoid doing this, but I somehow persevered.

The only panel/reading we went to was a reading by Uzodinma Iweala, Doreen Baingana, and Mohammed Naseehu Ali, all of whom were excellent. I knew Iweala's and Baingana's work, but Ali was new to me, and I will now most certainly seek out his collection The Prophet of Zongo Street. Doreen Baingana, who I first became acquainted with in Kenya last year, read part of a story from her excellent collection Tropical Fish, and Iweala read a story from the latest Paris Review. (And I guess here is the place where I have to admit I don't read The Paris Review much anymore because it has become so thin. A few stories, an interview or two, a handful of poems, some pictures. The design has gotten better, but the contents have been put on such a diet the magazine just doesn't hold much interest for me anymore. Alas.)

There were other panels that looked fascinating, but there were long lines to get tickets to see them, and getting tickets would have required planning and organization on my part. So we only saw the one. And a good one it was.

After the reading, I found Tom Burke, who is one of the organizers of the Summer Literary Seminars program through which I visited Kenya last year. Tom kindly introduced me to some of the people behind one of my favorite websites, Words Without Borders, and pointed out a new lit mag to me, the St. Petersburg Review, which is published from my home state of New Hampshire and features a bunch of excellent writers, including George Saunders, Gina Ochsner, Padgett Powell, Josip Novakovich, Aimee Bender, Jeffrey Renard Allen, Mark Halperin, Timothy Liu, and, appropriately, many Russians whose names are at the moment unfamiliar to me. It also includes a special section of poetry by women from the Gulags.

By the end of the day, I was too tired to make the trek over to the Sunday Salon, so that's going to have to wait for another Sunday. It's good to have things to look forward to.

7 comments:

  1. Sir, I was quite sorry to miss you! Evidently, my need to meet a deadline eclipsed, curtailed, and otherwise interfered with any potential boisterousness I could have brought to the Brooklyn Book Festival! I hope not to do this again and apologize for any inconvenience you may have suffered as a result. (Clearly, Mr. Asher did a better job on this front than I did.)

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  2. Yes, once we had recognized each other through our separate disguises, Levi and I had a nice chat.

    Next time, Ed, you need to borrow one of Mr. Lassen's zoot suits! I'm not sure he got the instructions from Higher Command that he was supposed to give you one on your exit from San Francisco...

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  3. I missed all of you too! I was there with the ALP in tow and saw nary a litblogger. This is the downside of that whole "world's biggest small town" thing. Thanks for the writeup, though!

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  4. Next time, I'm wearing my John Deere hat with ear flaps so people will be able to spot me in the crowd.

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  5. Prophet of Zongo?
    Never heard of Him. Cannot wait to get online & check this site out.

    NB: I am not an a writer and cannot comprehend all most of these 'bookish' language. I enjoy light reading. I'm somewhat fascinated with writers though!

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  6. Hi Matthew. I'm Amber, and I'm working with an author that I'd love to have featured on your blog, in a "conversations with..."

    can you email me at amber at media muscle dot com? thanks.

    amber

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  7. Some pictures of the festival taken at the Brookview Press booth

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