OTBKB’s Top 20 Panel Picks for the Brooklyn Book Festival

September 16, 2012

The Brooklyn Book Festival is coming to downtown Brooklyn on Sunday, September 23rd. In addition to a marketplace of publishers and booksellers, there are something like 140 panels to choose from.

I picked the following 20 that I think sound interesting. Listed by location. I put three stars next to the ones I think sound really HOT.

MAIN STAGE: Borough Hall Plaza

***1.2:00 P.M. Let’s Talk About Sex: Grappling with Gender in the 21st Century. Is biology destiny? What does it mean today to be a man, a woman, or to feel somewhere in between? Naomi Wolf (Vagina: A New Biography), Carlos Andres Gomez (Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood) and Kate Bornstein (A Queer and Pleasant Danger) consider the role of sex and gender in culture today, how it makes us, and how we react to the trappings of gender put upon us by society at large. Moderated by Hanna Rosin (The End of Men).

 ST FRANCIS AUDITORIUM: 180 Remsen Street

2.  2:00 P.M. Secrets Secrets Are Some Fun. How does a writer decide what to keep from the characters, narrator, or audience? Elizabeth Crane (We Only Know So Much), John Burnham Schwartz (Northwest Corner) and Kurt Andersen (True Believers) discuss how they tell secrets, but they won’t tell them all! Moderated by Ben Greenman (What He’s Poised to Do).

***3.  5:00 P.M. Enduring Unlikable Women.  Elissa Schappell (Blue Print for Building Better Girls), Gilbert Hernandez(Love and Rockets) and Dana Spiotta (Stone Arabia) write difficult, complex female characters. Join these authors in a reading and discussion that looks at the bad boy and the unlikable woman in literature and how they are reviled or celebrated by their audience and creators. Moderated byMeredith Walters, Brooklyn Public Library.

 BROOKLYN HISTORICAL SOCIETY: 128 Pierrepont Street

4. 11:00 A.M. A Conversation about Conscience. Why do some people make painful and challenging decisions of conscience—and why do so many others often choose not to? Fifty years after Hannah Arendt examined the dynamics of conformity in her seminal account of the Eichmann trial, this panel will explore the flipside of the banality of evil, mapping out what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention. Featuring E.O. Wilson(The Social Conquest of Earth), Eyal Press (Beautiful Souls) and Louisa Thomas (Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family: A Test of Will and Faith in World War I).  Moderated by Ted Hamm.

 BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL

5.  3:00 P.M. Fright Write. Instead of heart throb vampires and werewolves, J.R. Angelella(Zombie), Victor LaValle (The Devil in Silver), and Chase Novak (Breed) bring you heart pounding unconventional horror stories. Join us as the three discuss their thrilling new novels! Moderated by Sarah Weinman.

***6.  5:00 P.M. Inventions of Adolescence.  Novelists Kurt Andersen (True Believers), Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self) and Karen Thompson Walker (The Age of Miracles) read from their work and discuss the experiences of youth. Moderated by Kevin Holohan.

 BROOKLYN HEIGHTS LIBRARY

***7.  12:00 P.M. An Education: Coming of Age in America Today. How does higher education serve our democracy? With college tuitions at an all-time high, instruction migrating to online platforms, and the number of good jobs for those without college degrees declining, America is at a crossroads. Columbia professor Andrew DelBanco (College What Is It and What It Should Be), Andrew Hacker (Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids, and What We Can Do About It), and Brooklyn College Dean Kimberley L. Philips(War! What is it Good For? Black Freedom Struggles & the U.S. Military From World War II to Iraq), discuss the past, present and future of higher education as a path to adulthood in America. Moderated by Richard Greenwald.

8.  12:00 P.M. Who? New! The Brooklyn Book Festival picks five of the year’s most impressive debut novelists: Ayad Akhtar (American Dervish), Kathleen Alcott (The Danger of Proximal Alphabets), Catherine Chung (Forgotten Country), Bill Peters (Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality) and Laurie Weeks (Zipper Mouth).

9. 1:00 P.M. 1st Over 40. There’s obscene pressure on today’s writers to be the next hot young thing.  1st Over 40 celebrates the lives and accomplishments of three writers Carin Clevidence(The House on Salt Hay Road), Jacqueline Jones LaMon (Last Seen) and Julia Glass (The Widower’s Tale) who took a little bit longer to find their voice, putting them among a fraternity that includes Raymond Chandler, Daniel Defoe, Norman Rush, and Alice Munro. Moderated byAlexander Chee (Edinburgh).

10.  4:00 P.M. Woody Guthrie—This Land is His Land. This year marks the 100th centennial of the birth of Woody Guthrie. Nora Guthrie (My Name Is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s Town) and Robert Santelli (This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folk Song) in conversation about his life and influence.

 BOROUGH HALL CONFERENCE ROOM

11.   4:00 P.M. Small Demons. Experience the new visual index for books, Small Demons!

 BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL COURTOOM: 209 Joralemon Street

12.  10:00 A.M. All in the Family. Three authors put their own spin on modern marriage, parenting and childhood with protagonists who range from an Irish mother to a born-again Orthodox Jew.Anakana Schofield (Malarkey), Joshua Henkin (The World without You) and Amy Sohn(Motherland) read and discuss the conundrums, secrets and humor of family life. Moderated bySteph Opitz.

13.  12:00 P.M. Characters on Characters. Best-selling literary lions Walter Mosley, Edwidge Danticat and Dennis Lehane discuss their unforgettable characters and the darkness that often enshrouds them. The program will also feature short readings. Moderated by Harold Augenbraum of the National Book Foundation.

14. 1:00 P.M. The Other Coast: Stories from L.A. Emma Straub (Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures) Seth Greenland (The Angry Buddhist) and Karolina Waclawiak (How to Get Into the Twin Palms) read and discuss their books that bring to life the golden-age of Hollywood stars, politicking in the California desert and hidden life in the private clubs of L.A.  Moderated byDavid Ulin (The Lost Art of Reading).

15.  2:00 P.M. Poets Laureate Past and Present. Tina Chang (Brooklyn Poet Laureate), Billy Collins (US Poet Laureate 2001-2003), Ishmael Islam (NYC Youth Poet Laureate) and  Philip Levine (former US Poet Laureate 2011-2012) read from and perform their work.  Introduced byAlice Quinn, Poetry Society of America.

16.   3:00 P.M. Gone But Not Forgotten. Francine Prose (My New American Life), Patrick Somerville (This Bright River) and Thad Ziolkowski (Wichita) explore when their characters reunite with family members, for better or worse, and how the past shapes us or compels us to reinvent ourselves.  Short readings and discussion. Moderated by Felicia Pride.

***17.  5:00 P.M. The Fragility of Electability: Campaigns, Character and Messing with Texas. A conversation with Gail Collins (As Texas Goes…How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda), Jodi Kantor (The Obamas) and John MacArthur (The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America, or, Why A Progressive Presidency Is Impossible).  Moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Saint Ann and the Holy Trinity Church: 157 Montage Street

***18.  2:00 P.M. Literary Lions. Readings by award winning authors Pete Hamill (Tabloid City), Edwidge Danticat (Create Dangerously) and Paul Auster (Winter Journal). Whether their point of view is a palimpsest of Brooklyn fiction or set in other places, they have each lived in Brooklyn and been influenced by it. Followed by Q & A. Introduced by Johnny Temple, Publisher, Akashic Books and Chair of the Brooklyn Literary Council.

***19.  3:30 P.M. A Fiction Triumvirate: McFadden, Oates, Whitehead. Three of America’s finest authors read from their work, followed by Q & A. Bernice L. McFadden, Joyce Carol Oates and Colson Whitehead. Introduced by Rob Spillman, Tin House.

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