Four Fun Festival Facts
- 1. The ninth Wisconsin Book Festival is scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 3, but there's a related event on Tuesday, Sept. 28 (see Three Books to Believe In).
- 2. The festival is an initiative of the Wisconsin Humanities Council.
- 3. Annual attendance is estimated at 15,000 people.
- 4. As of Sept. 15, festival titles with the longest waiting lists in the South Central Wisconsin Library System's LINKcat search and reservation system were Stiltsville: A Novel, by Susanna Daniel (131 holds for 24 available copies) and Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel, by Gary Shteyngart (131 holds, 27 copies). Both are featured at the Friday Night Festival of Fiction, Barrymore Theatre, Friday, Oct. 1, 8 p.m., so line up early.
Two Unique Routes to the Festival
Colonial Kenya-Uganda-Britain-Kenya-Britain-Sweden-Yale-New York-California-Madison
Ngugi wa Thiong'o, appearing with his son, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Overture Center's Promenade Hall, Saturday, Oct. 2, 12:30 pm
One of Africa's most celebrated men of letters, Ngugi wa Thiong'o is a playwright, novelist, former prisoner of conscience and now distinguished professor of English and comparative literature at University of California-Irvine. His new memoir, Dreams in a Time of War, preserves the culture, landscape, political milieu and revolutionary social and guerrilla conflicts of his youth in vivid details that invite the reader's presence at his side. Essayist, poet and novelist Mukoma wa Ngugi reads from Nairobi Heat, a thriller that teases out issues of class and cultural identity as its American detective travels to Africa to solve a murder.
Kao Kalia Yang, Overture Center's Promenade Hall, Saturday, Oct. 2, 5:30 pm
Born in a Hmong refugee camp after the Vietnam War, Yang accompanied her family to the United States. The Latehomecomer narrates their struggles to hold onto heritage and identity through the upheavals of repeated resettlement. Yang is joined by Judith Pasternak, whose own new book, Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed, recounts another episode of callous U.S. disregard for the cultures it exploits.
Five Intriguing Opening Lines
"I fell in love with my great-uncle Harper because he taught me how to dance."
Monique Truong, Bitter in the Mouth, Overture Center's Promenade Hall, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 5:30 pm
Truong's new coming-of-age novel draws readers' aromatic senses with a protagonist who tastes the spoken word (a boyfriend's name evokes orange sherbet, disappointment, "toast, slightly burnt"). She appears with Daniel Kehlmann, whose satirical novel, Fame, Jonathan Franzen calls "a real beauty."
"Por su white, insouciant, papery look, por su semejanza a la amapola (scentless, a fin de cuentas, no obstante esa famosa escena de la Wicked Witch of the West, purring evilly, 'Poppies, poppies will put them to sleep. Sleeeep, sleep...'), when I leaned in to sniff, I hadn't been expecting any scent at all."
Susana Chávez-Silverman, Scenes from la Cuenca de Los Angeles y Otros Natural Disasters, Overture Center's Wisconsin Studio, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 5:30 pm
In this University of Wisconsin Press release, Chávez-Silverman crafts vignettes in an exhilarating Spanglish prose celebrating language as it is thought, spoken and heard in the real world - a means of expression subject to sudden gusts of innovation that blow it across cultural and physical borders.
"I own a homosexual bar."
Will Fellows, Gay Bar: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s, A Room of One's Own, Thursday, Sept. 30, 7:30 pm
Resurrecting Helen Branson's 1957 memoir, Fellows expands on the divorced grandmother's audacious account of launching an L.A. gay bar during an era of virulent anti-gay sentiment. Like his seminal Farm Boys (also published by University of Wisconsin Press), it's an invaluable contribution to the historical record for gay culture.
"Two days after my father had a massive stroke my mother shot herself in the head."
Teri Coyne, The Last Bridge, A Room of One's Own, Saturday, Oct. 2, 12:30 pm
In Coyne's debut novel, an alcoholic strip-club waitress takes a phone call that brings her home to confront family trauma. Coyne appears with Gail Straub, whose memoir of her own mother's premature death is Returning to My Mother's House: Taking Back the Wisdom of the Feminine. Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) calls Straub's latest "a book of enormous transformation."
"America was called into being by a journalist."
Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution That Will Begin the World Again, Overture Center's Playhouse, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2 pm
The dynamic duo of media criticism forecast a hybrid of old and new media sustained by public-private support and co-operative ownership. At stake: our democracy as well as the Fourth Estate on which it stands. Attendance is mandatory for anyone who missed, failed or forgot high school civics.
Six Heavyweight Endorsements
On behalf of four festival titles.
The Grace of Silence
Michele Norris, Overture Center's Capitol Theatre, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 7:30 pm
Confronting her family's ethnic heritage in the context of contemporary discussions about race in America, this memoir by the co-host of NPR's All Things Considered has drawn praise from Toni Morrison, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Pulitzer-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin ("one of the most eloquent, moving and insightful memoirs I have ever read").
Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats
Gwynne Dyer, Friday, Oct. 1, Madison Public Library's main branch, 8 pm
Dyer presents a dire forecast: widespread geopolitical conflict, European Union collapse and comparable catastrophes. Amory B. Lovins, chair of the Rocky Mountain Institute, hails Climate Wars as a "tool for understanding why the climate challenge is big, hard and vital."
At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance
Danielle McGuire, Madison Public Library's main branch, Saturday, Oct. 2, 3 pm
Timothy Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name, says McGuire's new account of the civil rights movement "changes the history books, giving us a revised Rosa Parks and a new civil rights story."
Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting
Amy Lou Jenkins, A Room of One's Own, Sunday, Oct. 3, 12:30 pm
Combining nature with nurture, Jenkins explores flora, fauna and family dynamics in walks with her adolescent son. National Book Award-winner Bob Shacochis (Easy in the Islands) calls Jenkins "the Anna Quindlen of the north woods, the Rachel Carson of the good land of Wisconsin, bequeathing to her son and to all of us an indestructible sense of wonder." Also appearing: Alice Honeywell and Bobbi Montgomery, authors of Across America by Bicycle from University of Wisconsin Press.
Three Books to Believe In
The 2010 festival's theme is "Beliefs."
Jerusalem's Sacred Esplanade
Wisconsin Historical Society, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 7:30 pm
Jewish, Christian and Islamic scholars come together in one volume, Where Heaven and Earth Meet, for cross-theological appraisal of what is known to Christians and Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary - a sacred site for more than three millennia. One of the book's editors, emeritus professor Benjamin Kedar of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is among the panelists here.
Steve Paulson & Ronald Numbers
Saturday, Oct. 2, Overture Center, 3 pm
In Atoms and Eden: Conversations on Religion and Science, Paulson - the Peabody Award-winning executive producer for Wisconsin Public Radio's To the Best of Our Knowledge - patrols the border between scientists and theologians, who sometimes find common ground. A UW-Madison historian of science and religion, Numbers is perhaps best known for The Creationists: From Scientific Creation to Intelligent Design, which remains so significant 18 years after its publication that Paulson has called it "probably the most definitive history of anti-evolutionism."
Festival titles with big page counts to help pass the coming winter.
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss, Overture Center's Wisconsin Studio, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 7:30 pm
Rothfuss' best-selling debut novel has drawn raves by no less than Ursula K. Le Guin ("real music in the words") and Anne McCaffrey ("a magnificent book...Wow!"). He appears with Andrea Jones (author of the Neverland saga Hook and Jill) in consideration of "Fantasy & Beliefs."
Reckoning with Pinochet, Steve Stern, Rainbow Bookstore, Thursday, Sept. 30, 5:30 pm
The UW-Madison history prof's exhaustive study examines the ways Chile has come to terms with the atrocities of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's brutal regime, the nature of national memory and the global shift toward recognition of human rights.
Seven Tuneful Tomes
These authors bring music to your eyes.
Joshua Clover, 1989: Bob Dylan Didn't Have This to Sing About, Overture Center's Promenade Hall, Thursday, Sept. 30, 5:30 pm
The associate prof at University of California-Davis brings his critical toolkit to this analysis of political, social and pop-cultural symbioses during a year that saw the Berlin Wall come down - and Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, N.W.A., Public Enemy and U2 among the ascendant.
Maryann Macdonald, The Little Piano Girl, Madison Children's Museum, Thursday, Sept. 30, 5:30 pm
In conjunction with the yearlong Mary Lou Williams centennial celebration here, and a cluster of related events this weekend (details at marylouwilliamscentennial.org), the prolific children's author presents her charming illustrated biography of the jazz great, for ages 4-8.
Thomas Larson & Stuart Stotts: Tracing the Melody Through History, Overture Center's Wisconsin Studio, Friday, Oct. 1, 8 pm
In The Saddest Music Ever Written, Larson explains why Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings has become the default score for mourning across generations, from presidential funerals to memorials for 9/11. In We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World, Stotts - an accomplished singer-songwriter himself - traces the origins and evolution of the powerful anthem in a concise analysis for grades 5-8.
Bill Malone & David Masciotra: Music That Works, Overture Center's Wisconsin Studio, Saturday, Oct. 2, 10 am
Malone, host of WORT-FM's Back to the Country, may be the world's most eminent authority on the country, roots, Southern and American music he adores. His seminal Country Music, U.S.A. is due this fall in a third revised edition of 704 pages. Masciotra, in Working on a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen, limns a Boss who understands his American musical heritage and the power of putting music to the service of core beliefs.
Linda Dahl, Morning Glory, A Room of One's Own, Saturday, Oct. 2, 4 pm
The New York Times Book Review called Dahl's biography of Mary Lou Williams an engrossing portrait of "one of jazz's greatest underappreciated figures."