Where’s the Major Book Festival in the United States?

(This week I’m covering the International Festival of Authors in Toronto.)

After seeing how the Harbourfront Centre and the Canadian government (and in addition, Scotland, Ireland, England, and Australia) have been working together to promote national authors and reading this week, I’ve got to wonder where our national festival is. I know we’ve got the New Yorker Festival and the LA Times Book Festival of Books, but I don’t consider those the same, since they’re being run as a for profit venture by private firms. That’s fine, but I’m thinking that a festival that had the kind of size and gravitas of the LATFoB but that was largely publicly funded and administered by a nonprofit organization would look very different.

I know the U.S. is a big country and we’ve got at least three cities that would immediately lay claim to being the only possible spot that such a festival could take place, but Canada is also a very large country and it has its share of regionalism, so I don’t think it would be unworkable. And it would be a great opportunity to seriously spotlight a lot of the small- and mid-size press authors that are often doing the most interesting work in U.S. fiction. Heck, we could even do it a little differently and make it a genuine opportunity to reach out to some international authors that are important in other places but get no traction whatsoever in the U.S. (Herta Mueller, anyone?) and address some of the cultural gap that definitely exists, Liesl Schillinger et al. aside.

. . . just adding a few hours later here. Apparently there’s a whole Canadian literary festival season here in the late summer and through the fall. From what I’m hearing, things get busy enough with festivals going on throughout the country that scheduling gets tricky for authors in multiple festivals. That would be a nice problem to have in the States.

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How about PEN World Voices, Scott?

Yep, that’s a great festival. That’s basically the opposite of what I’m talking about here, but the two of these together would be great. Of course, the way PEN can get foreign governments to help defray the cost of putting things together is a good indication of what to do.

You must not have heard of the National Book Festival sponsored by the US Library of Congress. It’s a week long celebration of books, reading, and authors held every September on the National Mall. You can read more about it here: http://www.loc.gov
In 2009, more than 100,000 people attended the festival. I’ve never made it there but a good friend of mine met author David McCullough and got her copy of John Adams autographed by him.

Haven’t heard of it. Will check it out.

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5 essays. 2 interviews.

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