September 19, 2013

Your guide to 2013 Brooklyn Book Festival Panels


A great crowd of readers at the Brooklyn Book Festival, who need to buy a damn book or go home.

It’s time again for one of our favorite hometown events: the Brooklyn Book Festival.

What began as a scrappy little festival for local publishers and booksellers has quickly grown into a marquee event on the literary calendar for many authors and presses. We make a point of being in attendance, alongside some of the best indie lit nerds from around the country. The row upon row of booths are dangerous for any book lover—a reader can easily spend more money than they’d planned. And the selection is so rich, even the most jaded of booksellers will find a few gems they’ve never seen before.

For all that, one of the things that has really helped the Brooklyn Book Festival stand out in recent years is the quality of literary events scheduled in and around downtown Brooklyn. Much has been made of the sheer population density of great authors in this borough, and at the BBF they all come out to play. To help you make sense of the great author events on offer, we’ve compiled what are sure to be some of the best. See you there!

11:00 AM

Hey, Buy My Book! The Brooklyn Book Festival picks five of the year’s most impressive debut novelists who will read from their work in the hopes that you might buy a copy: A.X. Ahmad (The Caretaker), Caleb Crain (Necessary Errors), Ursula DeYoung (Shorecliff), Michele Forbes (Ghost Moth), and Ayana Mathis (The Twelve Tribes of Hattie).

Personal Stories, National Memory, Both for Sale: Fiction can be as narrow or contained as a single consciousness, or open up and embody something intrinsic to an era or nation. More importantly you can and should buy some of it. Alexander Maksik (A Marker to Measure Drift), probes the shattered inner world of a Liberian war refugee; Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vásquez (The Sound of Things Falling) captures the dread and violence of his country’s drug war years, and Oonya Kempadoo (All Decent Animals) offers a polyrhythmic, panoramic view across contemporary Trinidadian society. Moderated by Anderson Tepper.

12:00 PM

The World (According to Cartoonists) (Who Need to Eat) (Maybe You Could Help With That) Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve #13), Rutu Modan (The Property),Dash Shaw (New School), and David Prudhomme (Rebetiko) all explore characters crossing borders — national and personal, real and imagined, between getting paid to make books and not. Discover how these award-winning cartoonists translate the world through art and story and their very real hunger, which you can help alleviate, just a couple of bucks would do. Moderated by Kent Worcester, also pretty hungry.

Arts and Politics and Buying Our Books Please, You Bastards: Art has always been a tool for political and social change. In these novels, it comes in the form of protest-pop songs, motorcycle photography and for the love of god buying our books we have mortgages to pay, you ingrates. Alex Gilvarry (From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant), Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers) and Nicholson Baker (Traveling Sprinkler) shed new light on the timeless relationship between art and politics. Moderated by Joel Whitney.

1:00 PM

Look, the Book is On Sale Right Over There: David Cole, Georgetown University Law Center, Yasmine El Rashidi (The Battle for Egypt), Amy Knight and Ken Roth, Human Rights Watch. Presented by the New York Review of Books. Moderated by Ian Buruma.

Seriously, I Can See It, Go Buy One, Right Now: Will the wave of democratic upheaval yadda yadda I swear I’ve only eaten saltines for days, buy my damn book! Featuring David Graeber (The Democracy Project), Moustafa Bayoumi (Midnight on the Mavi Marmara), and Astra Taylor (Occupy!).  Moderated by Nathan Schneider (Thank You, Anarchy!).

2:00 PM

It’s Probably Discounted or Something, I Don’t Know, I Just Wrote It, Stop Asking Questions and Find Your Wallet:  Everybody knows that salt, sugar and fat are killing us, but just how did toxic food and empty calories become the norm? Michael Moss (Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us) and Nick Saul (The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement) explore how and why food empires traffic in unhealthy food and the ways that communities are fighting back, mostly by buying this book. Just one? Just one. PLEASE.

3:00 pm

You Think I Do This for Fun? This is a Job! I Hate This! Make This Worth My While: Three fantasy authors explore the human condition in supernaturally enhanced Earths and non-Earths. Felix Gilman, (The Rise of Ransom City), N.K. Jemisin, (The Dreamblood series) and Naomi Novik (Temeraire series), discuss the narrative power of placing ordinary people, people who bothered to buy these damn books, in extraordinary worlds. Moderated by Lev Grossman (The Magician King).

4:00 PM

Buy the Book Buy the Book Buy the Book Buy the Book: There’s something weird going on here. Unless you buy our books, in which case we won’t have to cut you. Trust us, we will mess you up. Fiona Maazel (Woke Up Lonely), Jonathan Dee (A Thousand Pardons), and Lore Segal (Half the Kingdom) show that, often, what we seek to control ends up controlling us instead. Moderated by Ken Chen, Asian American Writers Workshop.

Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.