Last night was the Decatur Book Festival’s kickoff press party. This year’s poster was unveiled (below). The author highlights were touched upon (see full list), and the keynote speaker was announced. This year’s keynote will be given by Congressman John Lewis, who has a new autobiographical graphic novel series. I am particularly excited about the Lev Grossman/Austin Grossman double-bill. Get the full scoop on this year’s big plans at the DBF website.
This evening f.o.b. (friend of the blog) Collin Kelley will be reading from his new novel Remain In Light, which is set in Paris Not only does the novel take its name from a Talking Heads album (bonus points), but it’s also nominated for for the prestigious 2012 Townsend Prize for Fiction. The reading begins at 7:15 at the Georgia Center for the Book (Decatur Library Auditorium). 215 Sycamore Street, Decatur, GA.
Are the kids still saying that? If so, this event at Atlanta’s Wren’s Nest is eminently oh-snap-able. If not, um…I meant it ironically.
I’m very excited about this. Many of my favorite ATL writers. A band called Book Club. I’ve said for years that the Wren’s Nest would be a fantastic venue for this sort of thing. Ask anybody. Brought to you by PurgeATL.
Are you a fan of the story-telling project/phenomemon The Moth? If you answered yes and live in Atlanta, you need to cancel whatever plans you thought you had on Thursday October 28 and Friday October 29 and get on out to Manuel’s Tavern. Moth founder, and St. Simons native, George Dawes Green has been crossing the state with Moth veterans in support of indie bookstores and story-telling. They’re calling it the The Unchained Tour:
We’re painting up an old bus, and this October five brilliant mad Moth raconteurs—along with fiddlers and a circus act—will be riding to fourteen Georgia towns to tell stories and play music and perform. We’ll visit locales where there are still independent booksellers. We’ll ask our audiences to join the pledge that henceforth, whenever possible, they’ll buy their books only from independent bookstores. We’re inviting folks to come celebrate the purest arts: handmade music and the voice of the raconteur and the incandescence of great literature. To come celebrate in the company of their neighbors. On lovely autumn nights in Georgia.
Thursday and Friday nights are the final nights of this very cool project. Don’t miss it!
Hey all you Atlanta based YA fans, it’s time! Put on your corset, grab your grandpa’s bi-plane flight goggles, his pocket watch, and maybe your ipad and head to the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur this Thursday night at 7 for the steampunk event of the season. Not on board the steampunk train yet? Wikipedia says:
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.
For this steampunk occasion, Scott Westerfeld will be reading from and discussing his new book Behemoth, the second in the Leviathan trilogy that re-writes World War 1 as (among other things) a battle between the DNA inspired “Darwinist” creatures of Great Britain and the technological “clanker” powers of Austro-Hungary. Check out what Cory Doctorow on boingboing has to say.
I read and loved Leviathan when it came out, until I figured out it was part of a trilogy and wasn’t going to end for awhile. Having gobbled up lots of Scott Westerfeld’s series, I should have known. I should have also realized that some tales need lots of space to be told properly, and this is one of them. Luckily, Westerfeld is one of those masterful story tellers that I can’t get enough of. In fact, if steampunk doesn’t sound like your thing, other Westerfeld favorites include the Uglies series as well as the stand-alone So Yesterday.
I’m just beginning Behemoth and will not be finished in time for the reading, but that’s ok. I just can’t wait so see what this guy looks like and what he has to say.
Want more steampunk? Check out this cake. While there, search for the beautiful photographs of an entire steampunk themed wedding (thanks, Kathleen!).
No matter what else happens at the Decatur Book Fest the kids tent is always hopping. Here Liz Kessler entertains the masses:
At the Decatur Book Festival: Tell the Bookie Monster what you’re reading kids.
I can’t believe that I saved this one for last – I’ve been talking about it the longest. On Saturday, Tom Key, author of The Theatrical Outfit’s wonderful stage adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces (buy tickets here), will be leading a panel discussion called Under the Influences of Dunces (How the Confederacy of Dunces Affected Writing). The panel discussion will be followed by a session called Adpating The Dunces. Tom Key, Director Richard Garner, and the Atlanta cast of Dunces will discuss the process of adapting the novel for the stage. The discussion will include performances of selected scenes by the cast. Don’t miss this one.
Laurel Snyder may be the hardest working author at the Decatur Book Festival. The one-woman powerhouse will be part of events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. She is the author of several books that are worth noting.
Her children’s picture book Inside the Slidy Diner is a favorite with the young reader in my home and introduced the family to our adopted catch phrase “Clatter and din! Hullabaloo!” We’re actually able to work that into conversation more often than you would think.
Her most recent picture book (just out last week), Baxter, The Pig Who Wanted to be Kosher, is awesome and was instant classic over at my house. While waiting for the bus, Baxter meets a man who is headed home for Shabbat. Baxter is so enamored by the man’s descriptions of the upcoming celebration that he wants to join in, too. Hilarity ensues as Baxter sets out to become kosher. He doesn’t know what “kosher” means exactly, but he’s a determined pig. He eventually learns from a young rabbi (a female rabbi, no less) what Shabbat is all about and finally gets an invitation to join in. The illustrations are wonderfully comic and offer knowing chuckles for adult readers. Snyder dedicates the book to “anyone who has ever felt excluded, which is to say…everyone.” It’s a wonderful story of inclusiveness and a great introduction into Jewish religious ideas for young readers. Buy it for the glossary alone.
And if that weren’t enough, Snyder has another novel for middle readers coming out later this month, Penny Dreadful.
So far this week, we’ve been subtly referencing some of the goings-on at this weekend’s Decatur Book Festival. Those days are over. The remainder of the week will be given over to “OMG, I can’t wait to see this” fanboy posts.
One of the events that I am truly looking forward to takes place on Saturday at 1:45PM. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will be in conversation “Tavis Smiley-style” about storytelling with Lain Shakespeare of the Wren’s Nest. Adichie is the author of the brilliant Half of a Yellow Sun (read our reviews here and here) as well as the novel Purple Hibiscus and the short story collection That Thing Around Your Neck.
The best part of this event is that BGB is totally responsible. You can read all about how awesome we are at the Wren’s Nest Blog.
A Confederacy of Dunces is one of my favorite books of all time. Full stop. When I heard that Tom Key, Executive Artistic Director of Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit, had written a stage adaptation of the book, I was beside myself with anticipation. A few years ago I wrote about Mr. Key: ”If you’re not from Atlanta, there is a simple way to tell if a play here is going to be any good – check to see if Tom Key has anything to do with it. If so, your odds are pretty good.” That assessment still stands. Tom Key is a pillar of the Atlanta arts community, and I couldn’t be happier that he agreed to field a few questions from the likes of us.
Tom Key (left) and Director Richard Garner (right) – Photo James Christerson
Baby Got Books interview with Tom Key, author of the Theatrical Outfit’s stage adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces
Baby Got Books: Can you tell how us how the idea to adapt A Confederacy Of Dunces came about?
Tom Key: When I first read it in the early 80s I knew it would make a great stage adaptation because the character of Ignatius is as profound a creation as Shakespeare’s Falstaff, and the dialogue tells the story for a stage audience as effectively and with as much hilarity as the most classic Theater farces.
BGB: How did your team go about adapting the novel into something that would work on the stage?
TK: I was able to attain the rights to adapt the novel and to produce it this fall here in Atlanta at Theatrical Outfit. The next step was to hire the right director, design team for set, lights, costumes, sound and props, and then, to cast the right company of actors. I chose Richard Garner, Artistic Director of Georgia Shakespeare Festival, because Toole’s novel is as complex as Shakespeare, and I knew Richard could take that kind of an epic script and create Theatrical combustion. We had a series of production meetings discussing the design elements, particularly the set, designed by Sarah Ward who is from New Orleans, and how it all had to evoke 1964 New Orleans while at the same time allowing the actors to go from scene to scene in an instant. Casting was done in about two days auditioning close to 70 actors. We knew we had assembled a comic “Who’s Who” of Atlanta, and we also knew that Aaron Munoz, a classically trained actor and Improv comedian, is perfect, and I mean, perfect for the role of Ignatius J. Reilly. Once casting was completed everyone’s energy went up a notch because there’s a lot of confidence and excitement created when you know who exactly is going to be incarnating these incredibly funny and insane characters, and know they are going to be doing it so well. After I heard the actors read the script the first time, and with the help of our Dramaturge, Michael Evenden of Emory, I completed another draft of the script. Then after I saw it all the way through with all the staging completed I did another draft and now we’re literally in technical rehearsals putting all the elements together for our opening next week.
BGB: New Orleans accents are unique and have been notoriously botched on screen. How will your adaption tackle this problem?
TK: It was very important to us to get the authenticity of those dialects. So, we hired a dialect coach, Kathleen McManus, from New Orleans, and to our great advantage, she has also been cast in the role of Mrs. Reilly. All of our actors are incredibly gifted at dialect and it certainly adds to the fun. Toole wrote a lot of the dialect in the novel and I adhered to that as I extracted his dialogue for the script. With some characters there are clues by their names whether or not they might have, for example, an Italian (Battaglia) or Spanish (Gonzales) influence in their speech and our actors have certainly taken that and run with it.
BGB: Various attempts to adapt A Confederacy of Dunces to the screen have failed. However, there have been a few well received adaptations for the stage. Is there something about the novel that lends itself better to the stage than the screen?
TK: I don’t believe one medium is superior to the other, but I do think there are certain advantages and limitations that both have, and in the case of A Confederacy of Dunces, I think the Theatre has two advantages. One is some readers have found Ignatius so offensive that they can’t finish or really get the book. So, I think meeting him in person onstage gives someone the maximum advantage to not just encounter this bombastic personality but to begin to understand him, empathize with him and eventually root for him. In our day to day life, we have a much better chance of understanding someone different than ourselves if we can be with that person face to face, and I think this is an advantage for grasping such an iconic kind of literary character as Ignatius. Second is that the Theatre tells the story in language whereas the dominant story telling element in Film is image. A film version I’m sure would be hilarious and can, unlike the Theatre, show the audience a real setting. But a screenplay simply could not contain as much of this rich dialogue and narration as a Theatre version. Obviously adapting a 400 page novel I have to leave out a lot! But, a screenwriter on this story would really have to delete much more of Toole’s writing for a movie. I imagine it could be tempting to settle for the visual comedy inherent in this story for the film, but I think it would be a real mistake if the audience just laughed at Ignatius as a sight gag. To me, what is crucial in dramatizing this story, is to make sure the audience comes to care, and to care deeply what happens to him. Whether he is ultimately received with violence or with compassion is, on one level, the larger drama of the human condition.
Aaron Munoz is Ignatius J. Reilly
BGB: Several of the other characters are about as politically incorrect as they could possibly be. Do you have any worries about portraying, say, Burma Jones, in a city with a history of racial discord?
TK: No, on the contrary, because Toole has created such complete characterizations, I think one of the virtues of sharing this story in a group experience will be that it will help to build bridges of understanding through laughter. What’s offensive is when a character is presented to an audience as a stereotype, a reduction or a one note representation of a category. That’s an insult. It honors our diversity for an author as observant as Toole to render our humanity with the complexity it deserves. In my experience, I have seen political correctness segregate us out of fear into fractions rather than to unite us in community. Common courtesy is what is needed in all successful relations. It’s interesting to me that the people in this story who are fundamentally courteous of Ignatius, or at least tolerant, end up well, whereas those who try and negate him, attack him or in someway get rid of him do not fare well.
BGB: What can you tell us about the cast you have lined up?
TK: I will just say that I am a firm believer in the Theatre wisdom, “There’s no such things as small parts, only small actors”. I’m very proud of the fact over the years that Theatrical Outfit has developed a reputation for hiring excellent actors in all roles. We are a professional theater company associated with the union Actors’ Equity Association. If every single cast person is strong than the production will add up to being greater than the sum total of its parts, and I can assure you that is certainly happening with this production. After I saw the first run through I was exhausted that night from all the laughing I had done. Their dialect work, their skill with physical comedy, their skill for characterization, their capacity to work as an ensemble and, in some cases, their ability to portray a dazzling variety of characters within this one play, are talents on a world class level. I couldn’t be prouder of the talent pool here in Atlanta.
Be sure to check out the short clip about the play at the Theatrical Outfit’s web page.
Performances of A Confederacy of Dunces
August 11 – September 5, 2010
Wednesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 2:30 pm
Saturday Matinee on August 21 at 2:30 pm
Atlantans, mark your calendars. There’s a very cool reading in town this weekend that you’ll want to check out. Kathryn Borel will be reading from her memoir Corked on Saturday evening at the Savi Urban Market in Inman Park. There will be free wine. Free. Wine. And I trust Savi to bring the good stuff.
I first became aware of Borel when Boing Boing posted a video of the author demonstrating how to open a bottle of champagne with a sword. That’s a skill you can use. They posted another Borel video titled How to Sample Wine Without Looking Like a Clown. That one’s fairly self-explanatory.
I’ve been meaning to check out Corked ever since. I was alerted to Borel’s upcoming Atlanta visit by Russ Marshalek, sometime BGB contributor and the hardest working man in books. Russ sent an impassioned e-mail to his Atlanta friends and associates urging us all to drop everything and check out Borel’s reading. Well, I’ll let Russ speak for himself…
(Dramatic interpretation of an an original e-mail by Russ M created by the Baby Got Books Thespian Society.)
I am informed that Tim and Jen have successfully completed a collaborative project: a healthy baby boy. They haven’t named him yet, so I’m sure they’ll appreciate seeing your suggestions in the Comments.
I’ll put in a plug for Inman: not only does the name evoke one of Atlanta’s nicest neighborhoods, it’s the handle of one of the most memorable literary characters of the past twenty or so years, the protagonist of Cold Mountain.
Mazel tov, y’all.
In local news, Neil Gaiman is coming to Atlanta (well, Decatur, but still…) on December 14th. The world’s greatest children’s bookstore, The Little Shop of Stories, won an appearance by Mr. Gaiman for winning a Halloween party contest promoting his Newberry Prize-winner, The Graveyard Book. The appearance will be hosted at Agnes Scott College and is free. But you have to have a ticket. You can pick up free tickets today, in person, at The Little Shop – one per person. On Monday Dec. 7th additional tickets will also be made available by phone. I’m dashing over there today to pick up my ticket and knock out some holiday shopping. See you there. Check out The Little Shop’s Event Page for all of the details.
The Decatur Book Festival, which ended on Sunday, was so overwhelmingly excellent that is took me almost half of a week to recover sufficiently to write about. Where to start? This year’s fest seemed to be the best attended yet. There were lines snaking down the street for several author events, the children’s stage was always hopping, and the vendors booths were better than ever.
As seen on the poster, “Bookzilla” was the official mascot of this year’s fest. #bookzilla was the official Twitter hashtag of the weekend (but I really don’t know what that means). The giant inflatable Bookzilla towering over the old Decatur Court House served notice that this is not a book festival that takes itself too seriously. Books are fun!
Vendor/exhibitor tents lined Ponce de Leon and the Square. By my totally subjective count and remembrance of year’s past, there were many more vendors/exhibitors this year. I was happy to see McSweeney’s was back in the mix, and I happily gave them a pile of my money. An interesting new vendor to the fest (new to me anyway) was the Dust-to-Digital tent. Dust-to-Digital are a local (and Grammy-winning) record label that specializes in releasing “rare and essential” recordings of American music. They have a new book out, Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950, that looks very cool.
One of the highlights of the weekend for my family was checking in with Skippyjon Jones, the Siamese Cat who thinks he is a Chihuahua. Judy Schachner (Skippyjon’s author and illustrator) sang, drew, and read at her packed appearance. Skippyjon himself made an appearance at the signature table. He needed the Friskies, because he was there for a long, long time.
Schachner signed books at her table for at least 3 1/2 hours after her reading (and she had signed books at an author brunch earlier in the day, too). Aye, Carumba! One reason why she may have been there so long is that she drew a picture of Skippyjon in each book she signed.
This inscription started a two day debate over the proper spelling of the word moustache/mustache. (The author used my preferred spelling. Who Moustache is a whole other story.)
The offices of Lenz Marketing, the gang responsible for the look and feel of the festival, displayed some of the artwork that made onto this year’s promotional materials and signage (besides Bookzilla). I am partial to this book-carrying gorilla that I didn’t see anywhere else.
I also dug the studious Book Worm.
Speaking of art: The world’s greatest children’s bookstore, The Little Shop of Stories was mobbed all weekend long. On Sunday James Dean, the illustrator for the wildly popular local children’s book Pete the Cat: I love my White Shoes, was painting a new Pete the Cat canvas. Kids were beside themselves.
And there were authors everywhere. Did I mention that? Many were getting the rock star treatment with lines down the block. Sadly my pictures of these events mostly feature blurry and poorly lit blobs at a podium.
Hats off to Directors Tom Bell and Daren Wang for putting on what, for me, was the liveliest and most fun Decatur Book Festival yet. I’m looking forward to next year already.
Hey, yall, the Decatur Book Fest is this weekend. That kind of snuck up on me, even though I’ve been keeping up with the news almost daily.
There are over 300 authors descending on Decatur Square, make sure you check the list and then check it again to make sure that you don’t miss anyone. There are at least four Pulitzer-winning authors in the house. Local author Collin Kelley will be debuting his new novel Conquering Venus. Gazillion-selling Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen will add to her sales. And on and on. Seriously. Check out the whole list.
I’ll be spending huge chunks of time with my young reader at the Kids’ Stage, where it is always happening. This year’s children’s authors include Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man, Cowboy and Octopus), Judy Schachner (Skippyjohn Jones – I am muey excited), Kate Dicamilo (The Tale of Desperaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Because of Winn Dixie), Atlanta’s own Laurel Snyder (Any Which Wall, Inside the Slidy Diner), and… really, check out the children’s author list.
And speaking of the kids, be sure to pick up a copy of The Wayfarers Diary from the Wren’s Nest booth. Atlanta area high school authors have been working hard all summer to bring their top notch literary journal to the fest, which is kind of the coolest thing ever. Last year’s edition was very cool, and it’s for the kids.
There are also plenty of special events on tap, including a Literary Death Match – check out the events schedule. Of course, there is also A Book Market and Street Fair. McSweeney’s will be there again. Last year they were giving huge “sweaty guy discounts” – and I still dropped a truck load of cash. Check out the list of vendors.
I’ll be there all weekend toting a hundred pound sack of books that I didn’t know that I needed. BGB contributor Russ Marshalek, making his triumphant return from the Big Apple, will be taking a victory lap around The Square. It’ll be a party. If you see us, say howdy.
Last week’s Solar Anus Reading Series (a Georges Bataille reference it turns out) was very cool. Colin Kelley followed some poems with a nice reading from his new novel, Conquering Venus. Chicago author Ben Tanzer read some short pieces that will appear in an upcoming collection. His “quasi-nonfictional” story about Ira Glass was hilarious. The host, author Jamie Iredell, says the series runs monthly-ish, so be sure to check it out sometime.
After the reading and over a couple beers, Ben Tanzer interviewed me for a podcast that he’s posted over at This Blog Will Change Your Life. I’ve never been on the receiving end of interview questions before, so you’ll hear some mumbling, long pauses, and the occasional “uh…” on my end of the conversation. I’ve helpfully annotated our discussion with some handy links.
You’ll need to go here to listen.
Helpful links for some of the items discussed:
- Manuel’s Tavern
- the Poncey-Highland neighborhood
- Radiant Days by Michael Fitzgerald
- Dave Eggers
- Zeitoun and
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
- The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- A Prayer for Owen Meany and
- The Cider House Rules by John Irving
- Black Flies by Shannon Burke
- Safelight by Shannon Burke
- R.E.M. vs U2 (I’m right. For the record.)
- Ira Glass
Many thanks to the always happening Ben Tanzer for the fine excuse to be out and about on a school night.
Atlanta author Jamie Iredell hosts his regular “Solar Anus Reading Series” tonight with featured authors Collin Kelley and Ben Tanzer. Kelley has a new novel, Conquering Venus,coming out soon that he may read from according to the Facebook. Chicago’s Ben Tanzer is the author of the very hip Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine. All of the cool kids will be there.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
BGB contributor Russ Marshalek moderated a discussion about publishing, social media, and the future at last week’s 140 Characters Conference (#140Conf). Really! And we have the video to prove it. The new media/old media dream team assembled includes Richard Nash (formerly of Soft Skull Press/current literary folk hero) and Ryan Chapman and Ami Grecko (Macmillan). Check it out if only to hear Nash’s controversial opening statements.
(via Galley Cat)