2007 Brooklyn Book Festival showcases borough's continued literary tradition

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

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Author Jim Carroll, protesting his microphone being cut off in the middle of his presentation.
photo: David Shankbone

Brooklyn Borough Hall featured a Who's Who in New York's literary community during the second annual Brooklyn Book Festival. According to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the borough's zip code 11215 boasts more authors than anywhere else in the country. It appeared to be the case on Sunday. More than 100 authors were featured at the day-long event, including The Basketball Diaries writer Jim Carroll, former M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell, author and illustrator Mo Willems, Jack Kerouac's sometime lover and National Book Critics Circle Award recipient Joyce Johnson and PEN American Center President Francine Prose.

This year's festival made use of Saint Francis College and the Brooklyn Historical Society to accommodate the big jump over last year's 70 authors in participation to 115 this year. Although there is no official way to keep track of the numbers of attendees, Borough Hall officials estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 people attended.

A crowd listening to one of the panels. An estimated 15,000 people attended this year's festival.
photo: David Shankbone

Markowitz spoke with NY1's Inside City Hall host Dominic Carter, who shared stories of his childhood abuse. A lone protester from Develop Don't Destroy, the group against the development of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, held up a sign decrying Markowitz's support for the project.

A highlight of the festival was recent Heinz Family Foundation award recipient Dave Eggers discussing with Nigerian poet Chris Abani a slide show of Eggers's trip to Marial Bai, Sudan. Eggers wrote a fictional account of the life of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. The book, What Is the What, was a critical success.

One of the featured panels on "soon-to-be-published works of groundbreaking authors" that included Jim Carroll, The Women of Brewster Place author Gloria Naylor and playwright and music journalist Joe Meno, ran into problems. The panel was the final program and started half an hour late. Naylor failed to show, reportedly due to a death in the family. In the middle of Carroll's presentation he was asked to stop speaking so they could close the courtroom where the event was held in the Borough Hall. Carroll was visibly upset. He asked the audience if they wanted to hear one song, to which they enthusiastically cheered until the festival organizers cut off his microphone to keep to a schedule that required they vacate the premises by a certain time.

Steven Carter and Bernice McFadden also failed to attend; McFadden stated on her blog that she came down with a stomach illness. The Brooklyn Book Festival had no comment.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.