I don't want to start this post with a diatribe about the state of newspapers, book stores, book publishers, e-books or the internet. What I do want to talk about is how I went to the Brooklyn Book Festival and it was crowded, packed, and mobbed! How I tried to get tickets to see Jonathan Safren Foer and Jennifer Egan and it was sold out! Who cares that the business of writing doesn't seem to know what to do next, we did and we were here to celebrate and give writers their fleeting moment of in-person "I love you's".
I'd never been to a book festival, so I didn't really know what to expect. I woke up early on Sunday, excited like I was going to a rock concert. I got ready and packed my bag for the long day out. Before hopping on the subway I stopped at the sometimes appropriately named Grumpy's Coffee. Americano in hand I hurried over to the train.
First up on my schedule was poet Mary Karr and music journalist Nelson George discussing the role that music plays in their creative process. Ticket in hand I ran up the Borough Hall courtroom steps, up one more level and down the hall into none other than a regal courtroom. Decked out with velvet curtains, an opulent chandelier in the center of the ceiling and large classic oil paintings of patriarchal white men. The authors sat in the front at a low table in front of microphones and name cards.
Once introduced the two pleasantly sparred like Sam & Diane in Cheers, before they'd slept together. Karr, also an essayist, and memoirist, is finishing up a country album. Nelson mentioned she had a "whiskey sound to her writing" even though she wasn't drinking anymore. She told us about some of the singers she was working with on her CD, like Norah Jones and Lucinda Williams. Turns out Williams showed up four hours late, to which Karr muttered under her breath "bitch", which we loved hearing: her pointed honesty and her funny way of saying exactly what we were thinking. She went on to tell us that Williams promptly sat down in the studio and sang her song in one take leaving everyone in tears. As country songs are want to be, it was a sad song. To which Karr then said, "Well, she can be four hours late any ole time." I hope to be a writer like her one day.
The rest of my day was full up. I saw music journalist Chuck Klosterman who has a new book coming out about the Invisible Man, told from the voice of his therapist. Also Sam Lipsyte (funny), Director and author John Sayles (hot), Marlon James (great comic timing plus a great accent) and last but not least Larry McMurtry who most recently won an oscar for Brokeback Mountain. He sat far from the mic and talked without his lips moving, like a ventriloquist maybe. The man was difficult to hear but leaning forward and staying perfectly still I heard what he had to say. He talked about how hard it is to make movies and about the good luck he had. I hope I get lucky like that and I hope he puts together a memoir before it's too late.