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.
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.
Thanks to a film adaptation that became a canonical classic, the Japanese fiction writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa is best remembered for the stories “In a Grove” and “Rashomon,” on which filmmaker Akira Kurosawa based his film Rashomon (1950), taking the plot from the first story and the tone of existential despair from the second. Akutagawa was a short story writer who lived a troubled life and killed himself at the age of 35, and much of his fiction seems to reflect the darkness of his biography.
This semester I handled two classes of a course called Interactive Storytelling, which is offered as an elective to students from the College of Computer Studies at my university. It’s intended to enhance the training of Computer Science majors who might be interested in developing video games or educational software. It’s usually team-taught by a fiction writer and a hypertext specialist, but because I used to work as a web designer and web design teacher, I could handle both aspects of the course, in theory.
Really cool packaging and design concepts for a fragrance line coming out of Poland. All the scents are named and inspired after famous writers. Now as for a the smell... that's only something folks out in Poland can attest to.
A stalwart advocate for freedom of speech, Taslima Nasrin is an exiled political and artistic refugee who has had her share of literary revenge. Despite her work being banned in Bangladesh and India, and even as multiple fatwas have called for her head, she continues to write, speak out, and win awards around the world. Her latest North American release, Revenge (Feminist Press, 2010), is a short novel whose title, in keeping with the life of its author, promises struggle and ready action.