Boston Book Festival Literally Awesome

Filed in Arts & Entertainment, Local Events by on October 25, 2009 2 Comments

Bookworms brave the rain to explore booths at the festival.

Bookworms brave the rain to explore booths at the festival.

Bookworms and word-nerds had plenty of reasons to rejoice yesterday as the Boston Book Festival presented a jam-packed day of forums, signings, and, of course, book sales in Copley Square.

The festival, three years in the making according to organizers, brought together a disparate group of authors to talk about writing across virtually every genre. Robert Pinsky, a former United States Poet Laureate, discussed the musicality of poetry, while a panel of memoirists, including Boston’s own Michael Patrick MacDonald, mused about putting their lives to paper. One event, hosted by the New York Times’ technology guru David Pogue, even addressed the future of printed books with a discussion on digital publishing and library digitization.

Though the festival presented a plethora of presentations for attendees to choose from, the full schedule was, unfortunately, so crammed as to be detrimental to the overall event. Speakers simultaneously addressed crowds in the library and the neighboring churches, necessitating some tough decisions and prioritizing for attendees (do I want to see a forum on Obama’s presidency, or one on dark thrillers?) Aside from the keynote address, every event overlapped with another; at one point, seven different presentations were all underway.

John Hodgman, exchanging witty banter with a hilarious fan and fellow writer

John Hodgman, exchanging witty banter with a hilarious fan and fellow writer

Even with the frequent overlap, almost every event was packed to capacity, forcing latecomers to stand—if they were able to get in at all. Long lines were the norm, forming long before the scheduled start of events as people hoped to ensure admittance to some of the more high-profile talks.

At Old South Church, John Hodgman—whose books of fake trivia, appearances as a resident expert on The Daily Show, and ubiquitous presence as a PC in Apple commercials have earned him a decent piece of fame with the following to prove it—filled every pew in the sanctuary. Displaying his signature, deadpan wit, Hodgman greeted the crowd, declaring, “I’ve always wanted my own megachurch.”

In response to light questioning from acclaimed novelist Tom Perrotta, Hodgman then opined on his experience rising through the literary ranks from low level agent, to web columnist, to best selling author. At times he waxed serious, advising his audience—one sprinkled with aspiring writers—to write not for the sake of being published, but for their own enjoyment.

The humor carried over to a subsequent book signing at which Hodgman took the liberty of personalizing copies  of his books. When one fan praised his book as being “too funny,” Hodgman quickly apologized and, with a black sharpie, excised several pages to bring the overall hilarity down to par.

Across the Square in Trinity Church, three writers of offbeat works discussed their latest creations in the aptly titled, “And Now for Something Completely Different.” Loud laughter greeted R. Sikoryak’s slideshow overview of his book, “Masterpiece Comics,” a compendium of classic literature adapted into well-known comics. Superman served as a stand-in for the protagonist in Camus’ existential novel, The Stranger, while Beavis and Butthead exchanged juvenile jokes in a rendition of “Waiting for Godot.”

Between events, attendees braved the rain to mingle among the promotional booths for publishing houses, bookstores, and non-profit organizations that lined Copley Square. Gale-force winds eventually forced many of the booths to close early, however, as flyers and even some books blew wildly across the walkways.

With the death knell of the printed word tolling louder every year, tangible books now face the same fate as newspapers and magazines, whose readerships have been decimated by the unparalleled convenience of digital media. Yet the hundreds of readers who turned out for the festival served as proof that, though bound books may soon be obsolete, their demise will not be as quiet as the hush inside a library.

All photos courtesy of Molly Coombs

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  1. Patrick Maguire says:

    Great day. Thanks to State Street, the rest of the sponsors, and all of the volunteers for a great day. Let’s make this an annual event.

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