Thursday, September 3, 2009

Reading's all the rage

By Helen Klein

Despite all the old bad jokes about Brooklyn accents, Brooklynites are a cultured bunch.

Indeed, as the borough has gained visibility, it has become even more of a magnet for the creative types whose flair with words add to Brooklyn’s reputation as a center for the arts.

It’s no surprise, then, that the fourth annual Brooklyn Book Festival, planned for Sunday, September 13th, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., features a blockbuster lineup of authors with ties to Brooklyn, as well as other notable writers.

Among those authors with Brooklyn creds who have already indicated their intention of being a part of the event are Edwidge Danticat, who will receive the festival’s “BoBi” award; Paul Auster; Nelson George; Pete Hamill; Jonathan Lethem; Leonard and Phillip Lopate; and Francine Prose.Other well-known authors who will be on hand include Russell Banks, Anita Desai, Heidi Julavits, Naomi Klein, Mark Kurlansky, Gary Shteyngart, and Melvin Van Peebles (for the complete schedule, see here).

In addition, New York Comic Con (NYCC) will also be involved in the festival, a first for the event.

“We are proud to bring an intense graphic lit and pop culture presence to such a great festival.” remarked Lance Fensterman, vice president and show manager for NYCC.

NYCC will enliven the festival with a performance tent, presentations, autographing sessions and a dedicated marketplace area.

In all, about 150 writers will participate in the festival, which also will feature an extensive literary marketplace on the Borough Hall plaza. In addition, as part of the festival, authors will give readings, and there will be panel discussions, as well as a stage where children’s authors can reach out to the youngest literati.

The event -- which will be held at Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, as well as at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street; and the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street -- will clearly be an opportunity for residents of the borough and beyond to immerse themselves in the world of literature.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, announcing the lineup for the festival during a press conference earlier this year at Borough Hall, recalled that an early author who hailed from the borough had written of Brooklyn’s peach trees.

“Today,” Markowitz went on, “the days of the peach groves are behind us, but we are blessed with the abundant fruits of our creative community.”

This makes Brooklyn a natural location for what Markowitz called, “one of the most prestigious literary events in the nation.”

Among the highlights of the festival’s Gala Mingle, held the day before the festival, will be the announcement of the winner of a new award, created by St. Francis College, which is meant to recognize an author in the middle of his or her career. The $50,000 prize will be given for a writer’s fourth book of fiction, explained Tim Houlihan, vice president for academic affairs at St. Francis College, who noted that “Brooklyn is the only place where, when you try to give away $50,000, everyone says, ‘What’s the catch?’ We hope the prize will raise significant interest in authors who otherwise might be overlooked,” Houlihan explained.

Further information on the festival is available at The festival also has its own official Facebook page. Information on the festival is also available on Twitter, at bkbf.

Upwards of 20,000 people attended the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival.


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