Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brooklyn Book Festival 2012

I've barely posted here since changing jobs in November, which involved 8 months of a 1.5 hour commute. That's 1.5 hours each way, 3 hours per day. I moved closer to work, but somehow there still isn't the amount of time in each day that there used to be. But, I wanted to get down a few things before I forget them.

1.) The festival seemed much more crowded this year than in the two prior even though I personally thought last year's lineup was stronger. It was a really nice day out. Also, it's great that reading and books are so popular, and the festival is free besides, so what is there to complain about. But in order to get a seat at a lot of panels, you had to get there early enough that it wasn't possible to attend a panel in the prior time slot. For example, Dan Savage was speaking at 5 pm on a panel with the theme "Marriage and Monogamy," but the seats in that venue were all taken by about 4:45 or so. The 4pm panels ended at about 4:45, 4:50, so if you had been to one of them, it was near impossible to see Marriage and Monogamy. But, again, it's free, so nothing to complain about really. I just shouldn't plan a back-to-back agenda in the future.

2.) The diversity of voices really is remarkable. The last panel I went to (since Marriage and Monogamy was filled up at 5, the 4pm panel was my last) featured authors writing about the wars in Iraq and Afganistan: one long-haired hippie type journalist, one bespectacled blowhard of a novelist, and two clean-cut military veterans. I wouldn't say the panel "worked" exactly, but E for effort. The novelist was the moderator and I have no idea where he got this fact from, so, grain of salt, but, according to him, it was the first panel discussion about the wars EVER to feature actual veterans of said wars. It sounds implausible until you look at the statistics re: who is featured in debates about women's healthcare (which, the fact that that's even a topic of "debate" ...), Planned Parenthood, etc and find that it's generally around 70% men. Maybe vets get about as much say about wars as women do about our own lives.

3.) The list of people I saw, which does not include Edwidge Danticat or Dan Savage, who were, in my mind, the "main events" of the festival schedule:

Peter Kuper
Mr. Fish
Fly (that's what Mr. Fish and Fly call themselves. They're radical comics artists)
Jonathan Gray
Naomi Wolf
Carlos Andres Gomez (most insightful author of the day; I'm going to buy his book for a friend when it comes out next month)
Kate Bornstein
Hanna Rosin
Tyler Boudreau
Anna Badkhen
Brian Castner
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

I spoke briefly to Brian Castner, one of the above-mentioned clean-cut vets, after the panel. I had never met him but we seem to know a lot of the same people; his comments crop up a lot in my Facebook feed. His book, The Long Walk, is getting great press and even though the panel he was a part of was a little choppy that's no reflection on his work.

It's a much shorter list than last year, due partially to what I was saying about rooms filling up. Also I should have gotten my stupid ass out of bed early enough to see Tom Frank at 10 a.m. I am a huge What's the Matter with Kansas fan.

No comments: