This weekend, bookworms from all five boroughs unite to celebrate their love for the written word.
Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza is hosting the seventh annual Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday, with over 280 authors and over 100 panels making for an all-day event. The festival is the largest free literary event in New York City.
“We want the festival to have something for everyone, whether you’re an old woman from Astoria or a young kid from Brooklyn,” said Johnny Temple, chair of the Brooklyn Borough President’s Literary Council.
In addition to providing the public with access to readings, panels, children’s workshops, and other literary activities, the festival honors a writer with the Best of Brooklyn, Inc. Award, also known as the “BoBi” Award. On Sept. 10, the Literary Council announced Pete Hamill as this year’s recipient.
“It’s a thrill on various levels,” Hamill told Spectator. “Because I’m a child of Brooklyn—born there, grew up there, have returned there over the endless years since then— just to have that kind of a recognition locally is important.”
A native of Park Slope, Hamill has published the memoir “A Drinking Life,” and novels “Snow in August,” “Tabloid City,” and “Forever.”
He looks forward to mingling with the literati.
“To also be in the presence of Paul Auster and Edwidge Danticat and other writers that I admire very much, that’s also a thrill. So, it’s not quite the same as getting my high school diploma two years ago, 59 years after I dropped out, but it’s really a thrill.”
Hamill will headline two events: a conversation with book critic Bill Goldstein, and a reading and Q&A alongside Auster and Danticat, BC ’90.
The Literary Council has bestowed the BoBi since 2007. Past recipients include Auster, Danticat, Walter Mosley, John Ashbery, and Jhumpa Lahiri, BC ’89.
The council “take[s] a number of things into consideration” when selecting authors, press secretary Mark Zustovich said. “One of the things they consider is their entire body of work, in terms of how prescient it is, and then on top of that, how that body of work exemplifies Brooklyn, or how it speaks to the spirit or the characters of Brooklyn.”
The council includes representatives from universities, the publishing world, and the media.
Among the festival’s many events, Temple particularly recommends a panel discussion with “three amazing best-selling writers” talking about the challenges they face as authors. This panel features Dennis Lehane, the New York Times best-selling author of “Mystic River,” Barnard alumna Danticat, and crime fiction writer Mosley.
“They are three very different writers with a huge fan base,” Temple said. “That should be one of our most popular programs that I personally am also looking forward to.”
The festival will feature other notables such as Joyce Carol Oates and Billy Collins.
Before Sunday, eager bibliophiles can attend “Bookend” events—literary programs in bookstores, restaurants, and different venues in Brooklyn with notable authors. This year, over 50 events will contribute to the week-long festival.
On Monday, Brooklyn-based literary journal Electric Literature, Tumblr, The New Inquiry, and the Los Angeles Review of Books kicked off the week with an opening night party.
The turnout was “excellent,” according to Electric Literature co-editor Halimah Marcus. “500 people on a Monday ain’t bad,” she wrote in an email. “Highlights include Jami Attenberg working the WORD merch table, and the dance party. (I won’t name names, but there were some pretty racy moves and at least one dance floor mishap resulting in a black eye.)”