City Paper is not for tourists
Tomorrow’s National Book Festival on the National Mall, which features about 70 authors who aren’t named Sharon Olds, might be one of the last ones if this Cox Newspapers story has it right; the event, after all, was Laura Bush‘s baby. “We hope it will live beyond the Bush administration,” says Librarian of Congress James Billington in the report. “We can’t prejudge that. We certainly think it has become something of a national tradition.”
Tomorrow will be the first time I’ve checked it out, and I’m looking forward to it. Plenty of writers I like will be there, like Thomas Mallon, Joyce Carol Oates, M. N. Scott Momaday, and Edward P. Jones. Then again, there’ll also be folks like Post film critic and New York magazine punching bag Stephen Hunter. (Note to Hunter’s publicists: You can stop sending me copies of The 47th Samurai now. Really. I’m good.)
But, happy as I am to have a reason to go to the Mall that doesn’t involve playing tour host for friends and family in town, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if the festival disappeared with the arrival of a new President. For one thing, many of the authors I’d like to see swing through town at more intimate venues—even the somewhat reclusive Jones appeared at Politics & Prose earlier this month. And I’ve been telling anybody who’ll listen that next month’s Jewish Literary Festival, running Oct. 6-16 at the DCJCC, has an assortment of talent that’s just as good as the LoC’s to-do, if not better. Andre Aciman‘s Call Me By Your Name (Oct. 9, 7 p.m.), is the best novel I’ve read in a year where I’ve read an unhealthy number of novels; Nathan Englander‘s The Ministry of Special Cases (Oct. 13, 8 p.m.) is on my short list. Shalom Auslander‘s memoir, Foreskin’s Lament (Oct. 15, 7:30 p.m.), is every bit the inheritor to Portnoy’s Complaint that the title suggests it is. Folks I trust have recommended Ruth Modan‘s Exit Wounds (Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m.), Daniel Mendelsohn‘s The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (Oct. 14, 2 p.m.), and Walter Isaacson‘s Einstein: His Life and Universe (Oct. 16, 8 p.m.). It’s a ridiculously good lineup, and it doesn’t even include my favorite Israeli writer, Etgar Keret, or Philip “If anybody can lose 50 states for the Democrats, I think [Hillary] can” Roth.
Correction: Poster Mark Athitakis gave an incorrect first initial for writer N. Scott Momaday.