I spent Thursday evening and a good chunk of Saturday at the Boston Book Festival, an annual event in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood. Since 2009, the BBF has been a big draw for avid readers and book lovers in the area.
Thursday’s opening night program, “Writing Terror: An Exploration of Fear,” captured what is so enjoyable about the BBF. It featured former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (Blowback), journalist and intelligence expert Mary Louise Kelly (Anonymous Sources), terrorism expert Jessica Stern (Denial), and film producer/director Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street), moderated by journalist Joe Klein.
This eclectic panel engaged in a wide-ranging exchange on fear & terror in real-life and in fiction. Some snippets: Plame and Kelly, authors of new international suspense novels, concurred that when it comes to the most frightening aspects of global terrorism, all roads lead to Pakistan. Stern told us that unfortunately we likely will have to live with the ongoing specter of low-level terrorism, as exemplified by the Boston Marathon bombings. Craven said his biggest fears are grounded in America’s ugly domestic politics and global climate change.
I bought books by each of the authors and one of Craven’s films, and then went to the author signing tables. The line for Craven was by far the longest, with mostly young folks posing for pictures with him and requesting his autograph on a variety of movie memorabilia. (Sigh, even at a book festival, the scary movie guy is getting much of the love…)
On Saturday, the BBF went into full gear, with dozens of programs featuring leading authors and booths of publishers, literary journals, bookstores, and other vendors ringing Copley Square. I bought Vincent McCaffrey’s Hound, the first entry of a mystery series set in Boston (featuring, ta da, a bookseller protagonist) at the Small Beer Press booth:
Small presses and indie publishing increasingly are the wave of the future for quality work overlooked or not regarded as sufficiently commercial by mainstream publishers, especially niche fiction and non-fiction books. I hope that such presses will have an even greater presence at future BBFs.
The Brattle Book Shop is my favorite used bookstore in Greater Boston and one of the oldest in the nation. I was happy to see its booth attracting a lot of interest:
I love used bookstores. Whenever I walk into one, I am filled with a sense of anticipation over possible discoveries awaiting me. Brick-and-mortar used bookstores are in decline, but stalwarts like Brattle remain. It joins my favorites in other cities, such as the legendary Strand in Manhattan and Powell’s in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
You may not know that Dunkin’ Donuts originated in Greater Boston! They were handing out free samples of their pumpkin spice latte, a welcomed little treat on a perfect fall day. After all, books and coffee are a natural match.
Greater Boston has experienced a sad decline in the number of bookstores, as have most other parts of the country. But this still remains a place where books and reading are given due respect and affection. Events like the Boston Book Festival are a welcomed reminder of that.
Photos: DY, 2013