In its third year, the Brooklyn Book Festival is now the largest such event in New York City, and the crowds last Sunday overflowing the area around Brooklyn’s Borough Hall were a testament to the drawing power of a well-organized event and a stellar lineup, even during an unseasonably hot day. (Borough officials claimed attendance at 20,000, with some 140 authors participating in several venues, inside and outside.)
I only caught two panels and the first, to my surprise, was a bit of a dud: veteran authors Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin were supposed to engage in "iconic conversation," but Breslin was late–he blamed the taxi trip–and at times too curmudgeonly for his own good. The event turned into a Q&A with the audience asking about the presidential race.
More compelling was a panel on "The Long Life of Secrets," featuring novelists Patrick McGrath (Trauma), Alice Mattison (Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn), and Dirk Wittenborn (Pharmakon). While they read briefly from their works, the key to the panel was the work of moderator Frank Delaney (Tipperary, etc.), whose experience as a broadcaster obviously has been worthwhile.
Brooklyn has no shortage of fictioneers writing about Brooklyn and beyond; this year’s event notably brought in international authors (Breyten Breytenbach, etc.) and big names (Joan Didion, Chuck Klosterman, Richard Price, etc.) who don’t have a specific connection to the borough.
There were panels on Brooklyn fiction and even a couple on Brooklyn history, but I’d still hope to see some treatement of contemporary nonfiction about Brooklyn.