The Boston Book Festival will return to Copley Square from October 17th – 19th. The festival has drawn crowds upwards of 20,000 since its 2009 initiation.
This year’s festival will feature presentations by dozens of writers, including Claire Messud and Wes Craven. There will also be publishers’ exhibits and authors’ symposiums on various literary subjects, such as one titled “Herstory: Women in History.” Another event, “Memoir: Descendants,” will include Eileen Rockefeller, author of recent memoir Being a Rockefeller, Becoming Myself.
“The realms of literature and ideas should not be left in the ivory towers of our universities,” says founder and executive director Deborah Z. Porter. “They need to find their way to the streets.” Porter notes that Boston’s lack of a free book festival for the public—an event held in most major cities—before ’09 represented a significant deficiency, commenting that the public “should have access to our thinkers, writers, and public intellectuals in a joyous atmosphere of celebration.”
The festival not only gives readers a chance to interact with authors but to celebrate and learn about the many aspects of book publishing today. Lia Hunt, vice president of The Folio Society, a London-based publisher founded in 1947, describes the Boston Book Festival as offering “the rare opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of literature from many perspectives—from developing a great story to cultivating great art and illustrations.” The Folio Society is also presenting illustrator Sam Wolfe Connelly, who was commissioned to illustrate their 2013 edition of The Great Gatsby, and will be discussing the revisualizing of the 1920s classic book by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Salman Rushdie, a novelist whose works have inspired both intense praise and fierce condemnation. Rushdie’s 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, was met with protests in the Muslim world and provoked Ayatollah Khomeini to declare a fatwa, or death sentence, against the author. The fatwa was backed by the Iranian government, and several assassination attempts ensued. Rushdie describes his ten years spent in hiding in his 2012 memoir, Joseph Anton.
Many of the festival’s attractions will be geared towards children, such as several arts and crafts stations and the reading of children’s books by their authors.There will also be stories read for children in the nearby Boston Public Library. Presentations will be given by four Newbury Medal winners, amongst them Lois Lowry, author of The Giver. The children’s keynote speaker this year is Tomie dePaola, who wrote and illustrated the 1976 bestseller, Strega Nona.
All exhibitions and events are free of charge, with the exception of Rushdie’s keynote presentation and a performance by You’re the Expert, a Cambridge-based comedy group. Their show will consist of a comedic interpretation of the daily routine of John Overholt, Harvard University’s curator of early modern books and manuscripts.
Attendees can also access live musical performances by artists covering a range of styles and genres. The Boston Book Festival is to be something of a street fair as well, bringing local artisans, food from local venders, and exhibits by independent publishers.