The Boston literary scene fluctuates in its energy throughout the year, but this October 17-19th promises the city's annual bookish highlight. Writers and publishers alike will spent three days in Copley Square participating in the Boston Book Festival, a huge enterprise supported by our soon to be former Mayor Menino.
The excitement started with the Festival's release of One City, One Story, a project which 2013 branding experts have apparently changed to 1C1S. An outreach attempt that began with the festival in 2010, 1C1S publishes thousands of copies of a single piece of short fiction, selected through a contest and group discussion. Since the project's beginning, Boston has added published copies in Spanish, and more languages are accessible online. The 2013 story, Rishdi Reddi's "Karma" is, perhaps too appropriately, a muted look at unemployment in Boston. An Indian-American couple has to move out of the city into Arlington, in an apartment off Mass Ave.
Readers from Beacon Hill to Greater Boston towns like Arlington, Malden and Somerville will have differing opinions on the story, which illustrates rising housing costs in the city. An interesting dichotomy presents itself here, as Boston provides free copies of a story about displacement and economic struggle to a city looking to keep its young people in town following their graduation from our great universities. How can we, one might ask, expect young people to stick around into their twenties and attend events like the Boston Book Festival if they can't live on an entry level salary in the city? One hopes Mayor Menino and the committee who chose Reddi's story recognize the gravity of its images: a man stands day after day in a line for unemployment benefits, coming home each night having not made it to the front before the public service office closed at 5.
What Boston has done here is highlight the tale of a recent immigrant. Her Indian-American, unemployed, protagonist has a professorial background, but can't find work in Boston to support his wife. As Boston Calling, the city's earlier music festival, responded to critics calling its line-up "too caucasian" and "white-washed," the Boston Book Festival has added to its line-up authors and thinkers of many different cultural backgrounds. In addition, the Festival seeks to honor works in different genres, including Tomie dePaola's classic "Strega Nona." More exciting is the BBF's nod to horror authors (although New England's resident expert Stephen King will not be in attendance, though his September reading is hosted by Harvard Bookstore). Those interested in the Workshop "Writing Terror," featuring Wes Craven himself, can buy tickets online.
Another move toward a multi-cultural presentation is the festival's choice of Keynote Speaker: Salman Rushdie, most famous for his magical realism novel "The Satanic Verses." Rushdie will be accompanied by Harvard professor Homi Bhabha, awarded the the Padma Bhushan Award in 2012 by the Indian government.
Finally, Improv Boston affiliate and former journalist Chris Duffy will present his Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me style talkshow "You're the Expert," a wildly successful presentation beloved by Boston academics and young hipsters alike.
The Boston Book Festival has finally published its alphabetized list of presenters online, but has yet to announce its workshops or full schedule. For more information on Boston Book Festival or the city's literary scene, subscribe to Emily, your Boston Book Examiner!