Brooklyn Book Festival

Yesterday I went to the fifth annual Brooklyn Book Festival, held at the historic Brooklyn Borough Hall and Borough Hall Plaza. All of the events were free, though some required tickets. I got to the festival later than I wanted to partly because I still get lost easily around here, and partly because the subway system on weekends is completely different from weekdays. So by the time I stood in line for a ticket for the 3 p.m. event, Finding the Funny: The Humor of the Everyday, which was three humorists talking about their recent novels, they were all out. I did however, manage to score one of the last tickets to see Salman Rushdie.

On my way to the ticket booth, I passed by Sarah Silverman, who was talking to a fan right before she went up on stage to give her talk. I tried to think of a clever way to introduce myself, but failed, and instead I ended up sort of listening to her answer questions about her comedy and her book, The Bedwetter. I say sort of because she sat on a make-shift outdoor stage in front of Borough Hall, and before I even got to the festival the steps in front of the hall had filled with people. Plus it was raining so umbrellas took up a third of the space.

Still, for the most part I could hear Sarah, and she really is funny. At one point she talked about why she called her publishers douchebags. Her book is officially called The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee. But marketing had told her they would rather use the word “pee-pee” instead of “pee” because it sounded more friendly. But Sarah stood her ground, arguing that these people were not funny for a living. She said when she thought of pee-pee, it sounded girly and gross but regular ‘ol pee felt much more natural.

I wish I could say that Salman Rushdie was amazing, but sadly, it turns out even having a ticket doesn’t guarantee entry into certain events. I had gotten a little lost on my way to the St. Francis Auditorium, where Rushdie was speaking, and apparently the Fire Marshall had been yelling at the event’s coordinators for stuffing too many people into one room. I had already seen Rushdie speak three years ago at UCSB though, so I wasn’t too bummed. And for the record, he is fascinating.

I did, however, get to see the hundreds of tables with representatives from a wide range of bookstores and publishing companies, mostly book and literary magazines. They were even giving away free swag, like tote bags, with the purchase of one or more of their books. But today was the day I ran out of cash.

Next year I’ll just have to plan ahead…

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