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Friday, October 02, 2009

Tweeting at the Book Festival

There was a 10-day period last week when I was in seventh heaven. First there was Fall for the Book, a literary festival that the library cosponsors with George Mason University and many other organizations. Among the authors I got to see was one of my favorites E.L. Doctorow, best known for his novel Ragtime, which became a film and more recently a musical. The 78-year-old author was as playful with the audience as he is in his novels which always mix history and fiction in delightful ways. He read from his newest work, Homer and Langley, based in part on the legendary, reclusive Collyer brothers who as Doctorow explained “were aggregators like Google.” Today we would call them hoarders.

Then, last Saturday I took the Metro down to the Mall for Library of Congress' National Book Festival. Any bibliophile who has never visited the festival – in its ninth year and always on the last Saturday in September – is missing a real treat. Despite rain, the festival was packed. There was something for everyone from John Grisham and John Irving to Paula Deen, Judy Blume and Ken Burns.

Seeking shelter from the weather in the Library of Congress tent, I had an opportunity to experience the Festival’s Tweet-in, which reproduced a Tweet feed on a large monitor. There I learned that John Irving had just told the audience he never liked Hemingway and that Azar Nafisi was rousing those in her tent to fight the closing of book stores.

As I writer, I’ve always been skeptical that great things can be talked about in 140 characters, but the Tweet-In at the National Book Festival convinced me otherwise. Maybe there is room in the world for both old and new literary technologies!

Whatever you do, look out for Fall for the Book and the National Book Festival in the fall of 2010.


LitLinx said...

I just learned via Twitter that Conde Nast will soon cease to publish Gourmet and Modern Bride magazines. That's where I "heard" it first. Twitter really is a timely source for information, and a link between old and new technologies, as you put it.

Fairfax County Public Library said...

Thanks, LitLinx --and I know who you are-- :-). I can see how Twitter would be a great source for early news to those less attached to traditional media sources.