Book Lovers Flock to Copley Square for Boston Book Festival

M.T. Anderson hosts a keynote presentation during the Boston Book Festival on Oct. 28th, 2017. Photo by Jess Richardson / BU News Service

By Jenny Rollins
BU News Service

Bibliophiles from all over Greater Boston and New England flooded Copley Square on Saturday, packing nearby churches and filling the Boston Public Library to celebrate the ninth annual Boston Book Festival.

Affectionately known as BBF, the free literary gathering has brought thousands of participants since it first began in 2009.

“Boston has always been this country’s city of literature and intellect,” said award-winning Young Adult author M.T. Anderson. “It’s particularly fitting that there should be a book festival here.”

This year’s festival featured 200 authors. There were architects, cooks, journalists, podcasters, script writers, political theorists, hikers, playwrights, and even hip-hop performers.

“Our exciting headliners represent the wide variety of subjects and genres on offer at this year’s BBF,” said Deborah Porter, director of the BBF, in a press release.

Kids’ Keynote Address: Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket, the famed author of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” was not able to make it to the presentation, so, as always, he sent Daniel Handler to present for him instead.

Or that’s what Handler told the kids.

Handler writes his children’s books under the pseudonym “Lemony Snicket,” and writes his adult novels under his own name. However, he kept up his act as he moped around Old South Church, sighing and laying across random tables.

Sometimes he would flop onto a bench and, in his misery, slowly sink onto the person next to him. He also frequently called for audience participation.

When the presentation began, he read aloud Snicket’s latest book, “The Bad Mood and the Stick.”

“A stick is a word which here means a piece of a tree or a gorgeous accoutrement for an American author,” he said, gesturing to a stick pinned to his lapel. “This stick was proved to me by BBF,” which he pronounced “b’ffff.”

He then used the stick to repeatedly poke various audience members to prove that life is full of suffering and woe while the chapel rang with laughter from both children and adults.

Fiction Keynote: Claire Messud and Jacqueline Woodson

“It should be noted that this is not called ‘the women’s keynote,’ but ‘the fiction keynote,’” said moderator Sari Edelstein, generating a large amount of applause.

For the fiction keynote presentation, BBF chose to combine two powerhouse female novelists whose most recent award-winning books both focus on female friendship.

While most portrayals of female friendship either show it as empowering or toxic, both authors said the relationship is much more complicated than that and enough so to warrant writing about.

Author Claire Messud said the peaks and valleys of female friendship is a necessary rite of passage into adulthood.

“This is how girls learn to be grownups,” she said.

Author Jacqueline Woodson said she wrote the book to explore how other people survived without close female friendship when she “has a village” of female friends.

“As a writer, you write because you have questions,” Woodson said.

More writers like Maureen Dowd, Adam Gopnik and Stephen Greenblatt  presented throughout the day in other iconic landmarks in the area. In Copley Square, event-goers could enjoy live music; a book-related street market featuring publishers, authors, literary magazines and journals; and even appearances from beloved children’s literary figures like Waldo and Elephant and Piggie.

“I’m here because I love books,” said Emerson graduate student Madeline Greenhalgh. “And the fact that it’s free really speaks to how important the literary community here views literature and books.”

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