26th New York is Book Country Festival

Date: Saturday and Sunday, October 2-3, 2004
Street Fair: Saturday, October 2, 2004 (11 AM - 6 PM)
Location: Washington Square Park

New York is Book Country (NYIBC) is a non-profit organization that arranges the annual New York is Book Country fair in New York City. The 2004 fair, sponsored by the New York Times and Target, has moved from its customary midtown Manhattan location (it had previously been in midtown on 5th Avenue) downtown to the more pedestrian-friendly Washington Square Park and surrounding New York University locations. Also new this year is the festival is spread out from one day to two, though the street fair is still only on one day.

What exactly is this fair about, you ask? The answer's right in the name: it's all about books, a celebration of print on paper - whether the print be text, art, or a happy combination of the two. It caters to those that love content, with several panel discussions and author signings spread out over the two days, as well cater to those who simply lust books for physical sensuality, with a 120+ table street fair maintained by publishers, book dealers, and other assorted companies related to the publishing industry.

DC Comics have, for the second year in a row, commissioned a limited edition poster for the fair, this time honoring Death and Dream from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series as mascots, with drawings by Tara McPherson (who some might know for work on Lucifer or her band posters for The Shins, Modest Mouse, or The Strokes. Sandman is something that I feel is oddly appropriate for the book fair, considering its impact on the comic industry (art) as well as the standard publishing industry (after all, it did take the 1991 World Fantasy Award and threw a bunch of authors into a snit). Before you mention it, Gaiman's not appearing in the 2004 festival.

2004 Notable Authors Appearing in Panels

Note 1: Every single person listed should also have a book signing booth set up for them after the panel. Just about all panels are located inside one or another New York University building, which requires a photo identification for you to pass through. Entrance to panels is strictly limited; tickets had to be picked up in any of the Borders locations, though a small fraction of them have been retained by a booth at the fair in the park if you want to make a last minute panel visitation. Tickets are free, but are on a limited basis.

Note 2:: I'm pretty sure tickets will be still available for all the panels come the fair; the ones that were going fast, however, are the graphic artist panels (when I went to pick up tickets there weren't many of them left). Who can resist Frank Miller?

Note 3: This is not the entire list; I've only included those that I feel are of special note. This is heavily biased by my opinion, of course, and I have a much stronger attachment to stories for children than for adults. The entire list can be found on the organization's website (see below for link)

  • Jimmy Breslin
  • "Daily Show" Writers: these people alone are worth the trek here, I think.
  • Lisa Endlich: She wrote Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success, which I thought was pretty interesting.
  • Harold Evans
  • Alex Galloway: A panel on video game technology/cyberspace is always worth a listen. Panels like these usually tend to be hit or miss, though.
  • Pete Hamil
  • Paul Levitz: President of D.C. Comics.
  • Frank McCourt: I know anybody reading this who graduated from Stuyvesant High School is going to hate me for including him. Sorry.
  • Frank Miller: 3 words - Dark Knight Returns. Need I say any more?
  • Bill Rancic: I'm told he should be notable because he won Donald Trump's little publicity show. I don't watch TV but somebody out there must be interested. Isn't he doing something with Friendster now?
  • Ann Rule
  • Art Spiegelman: Because Maus is a classic.

Children's Authors

  • Julie Andrews: For god's sakes, who hasn't heard of her? Go for the sheer novelty of the idea that she's published books.
  • Mike Berenstain: I also dare you not to remember the Berenstein Bears.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis: Another actress who writes? Who knew? (though she may have not attended the second day because of her mother)
  • Cornelia Funke: Best known for her recent Inkheart.
  • Brett Helquist: Bring all your Lemony Snicket books and make him sign them all. He's the artist. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous illustrations, and the A Series of Unfortunate Events have a publication presentation that inspires paper lust out of anybody who even has a mild appreciation for book presentation.
  • Katherine Holabid: For all those girly boys and girls of childhood, dig out your Angelina Ballerina books for her to sign.
  • Francine Pascal: Visit the panel if only to rail against the way her Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High, and Sweet Valley University books completely destroyed your perception of the world.
  • R.L. Stine: Do same to this author with his Goosebumps, Fear Street as you would with Francine Pascal (see above).

2004 Special Events of Note

There are several other events going on during the festival, scattered throughout the city. The two major ones of note are the ones that will burn a hole in your pocket.

Note: I think the literary tea might be more exciting, if only that I recognize the panelists on it. And it's tea!

  • The New York Times-New York is Book Country Literary Brunch: Brunch with a reserved seating with authors speaking about their own books (signing as well). David Baldacci, Terry Gross, Alexander McCall Smith, Esmeralda Santiago, and Anita Shreve will be attending. $125/person.
  • The New York Times-New York is Book Country Literary Tea: Tea with reserved seating while Maureen Dowd and Jill Abamson have a discussion with each other. $75/person.

2004 Special Events of Note Outside The Fair

For anyone visiting this weekend for the 26th New York is Book Country Fair, the other major festival of note is the Autumn Moon Festival; it is an autumn festival celebrated by Asian communities around the same time in the fall (15th day of 8th month of lunar year). There are a few celebrations you can choose to go to:

  • Autumn Moon Festival: Get your mooncake groove on in Chinatown. On Saturday, October 2nd, from 1-6 PM, there is going to be a "Taste of Chinatown" where around 20-30 restaurants will be having tasting booths outside at $1/plate. You heard right! One buck! Get your eating and reading groove on.
  • Chusok: The Korean harvest festival is also running concurrently with the New York is Book Country fair, but is located at Flushing Meadows Park (where the US Open is). I haven't been to a Chusok for years, but there's always lots of beef. Big raffles, too. And K-pop stars performing (usually Saturdays only), if you're into that sort of thing.

Let's see... eat on, drink on, read on, what else...? Ah, yes. For any of you who can shell out the money and pay the exorbitant prices for sold out tickets, the other major event of note is the Franz Ferdinand concert at Roseland Ballroom on Sunday, October 3rd, 2004 at 6:45 PM.

Sources of Information
  • http://www.nyisbookcountry.com/ : website for New York is Book Country
  • The New York is Book Country Festival, New York Times, 10/1/04
  • Additions/corrections are courtesy of The Big See.