What is a literary festival without a panel on war writing? The final event I attended at 2011’s Brooklyn Book Festival was simply titled “Writing War,” and it featured authors Juris Jurjevics, Ron Leshem, and Maaza Mengiste (the latter of whom also completed my 2010 BKBF experience). I find myself attracted to these war-themed panels, like adrenaline junkies are hooked on war reporting.
When we get a whiff of inauthenticity, we are made aware of just what we expect from nonfiction. So says award-winning author Jonathan Weiner. He sat on a panel alongside the thoughtful and amusing Amitava Kumar and Carmela Ciuraru. Brooklyn Book Festival's panel, Unreliable Subjects, focused on the complexity of dealing with subjects (that is, people) who are inherently unreliable. What are the dangers and ramifications of writing nonfiction that is based on the testimony of someone who is shady, or a fringe character?
My second foray into the Brooklyn Book Festival was the Walker in the City panel, where the venerable Edmund White coaxed writers to reveal the imaginary forces behind a common theme in their writing: the distance their main characters covered, both geographic and metaphysical.
After his panel on the Arab Spring, I asked Libyan writer Hisham Matar about the Libyan revolution, Libya's complex relationship with NATO countries, and the role of the writer in times of conflict.
What does it mean to create a society? To be in a society? Nicaraguan poet and former Sandinista revolutionary, Gioconda Belli, writes in her page-turning memoir, The Country under My Skin, about traveling to once-forbidden sites in Managua in the days immediately following the fall of Anastasio Samoza’s regime: