My seventh and final panel for the day at Brooklyn Book Festival 2010. And guess where I’m at—the international stage. I’ve spent so much time here they should name it after me. Subjects covered up to this point in the day: oppressed writers, food, foreign destinations, translations, war correspondents, war in fiction, and now, border crossings.
I am fascinated by the intersection where war and the novel collide, which is why I found myself, for lack of a better word, positively giddy at the prospect of attending yet another back-to-back discussion on the topic. At PEN American Center’s World Voices Festival of International Literature this summer, I attended two panels of similar ilk: at that event, authors in one panel discussed writing fiction centered on violent conflict.
I left the international stage at Brooklyn Book Festival 2010 twice, the second time was to stretch my legs and make my rounds at the vendors selling their wares and promoting their presses in the cold September rain. But before that, I attended the War in Words panel, hosted by the venerable journalist, Laura Flanders. It was a hot ticket. The Brooklyn court room brimmed with political junkies, and even my heroine of heroines Amy Goodman dropped in (Amy, if you’re reading this… drinks?).
By the time this panel comes to life I’m on my fourth session in a row at the same international stage. I’m beginning to wonder what else is going on at Brooklyn Book Festival 2010 that I might be missing. A glance at the schedule: somewhere Paul Auster is yukking it up with the harebrained poet John Ashbery, Roseanne Cash holds court a couple hundred feet to my right, and nine other events are scattered here and there. The rain has paused, for the moment, and there’s no place I’d rather be.
From food talk to foreign lands. Still camped out at the international stage, I was taken from the dinner table to, well, appropriately, Hungary, followed by El Salvador and then China. A twist to this panel: all three authors are American (but they all retain personal connections to the destinations in their novels). The lineup: Andrew Ervin (who took us to Hungary), Sandra Rodriguez Barron (pilot to El Salvador) and Lan Samantha Chang (a trip to imaginary China).
While the PEN Freedom to Write panel was motivating, the ladies headlining the Food, Metaphor, & Memory panel were stimulating for another reason. There’s nothing like a food discussion to rouse various senses, both physical and emotional.
By the time I got home, my jeans were soaked, my shoes had puddles at the toes, and shivers signaled the onset of a mid-September cold. It was so worth it. Brooklyn Book Festival 2010 may have been drenched, but that didn’t keep me from feasting on literary splendors from near and far, at a veritable buffet of authors, critics, publishers, journalists, comedians and more. And kudos to the crowd for showing up in droves to walk the outdoor bookstalls, settle under umbrellas to hear readings on the steps of Borough Hall, and splash through the rain to get from one great event to another.