Only in its second year, the Brooklyn Book Festival is about to outgrow its grassroots shoes. Real business deals were going down left and right, and major authors came out for panel discussions and readings. But take heart, intrepid readers. The fair has managed to retain its hipness, ranging from casual hip to edgy hip. If you are a child or have one, this is an unexpectedly great place to go. There was a children’s pavilion with story time, craft projects, and book signings. Little kiddos were running to and fro in a state of utter glee (until late afternoon when they all got tired and started crying).
I missed some of the cool panels, like the scholarly discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird (I wonder if they ever mentioned this), one called “Culture Crash” with Ana Castillo, Colin Channer, and Amitav Ghosh, and “Works in Progress” featuring soon-to-be published works by Jim Carroll, Gloria Naylor, and Joe Meno.
However, I did score a ticket to see Jonathan Letham and Jonathan Safran Foer in coversation with their French and German publishers. The panel was moderated by the ever-impressive and million-lingual book critic Liesl Schillinger. The panel was called “Brooklyn Bridges to Europe” and was meant to explore how these two authors are received in Europe and what in their writing appeals to this more universal audience. Overall it was a satisfying panel with a couple memorable sound bites. What really stood out to me was how little the authors themselves knew about how their work is received in Europe. They have both gone on tour in Europe, but as Safran Foer pointed out, the only people they met at these readings were fans. He was said that the only American publisher doing translations was New Directions. He only knows that because he gets their newsletter (which is admittedly a good newsletter). Hint to all other small publishers: create a good email newsletter and send it to famous authors.