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Borough Hall will transform into a literary mecca with the first annual Brooklyn Book Festival on Sept. 16.

Hundreds of bibliophiles, including authors, publishers, agents, literacy organizations and book vendors, will gather for this extravaganza, said Johnny Temple, one of the festival organizers and owner of the Brooklyn-based publishing company Akashic Books.

"We wanted the festival to have a strong Brooklyn flavor, but this is a national book festival, a high caliber book festival," said Temple, who is chair of the Brooklyn Literary Council established by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in 2003.

Attendees will get a taste of both Brooklyn culture and popular literature from around the globe.

"Most of the authors live here or were born here or have some strong Brooklyn connection, but that’s not exclusively the case," said Temple, a Fort Greene resident. "Some don’t at all, but they are in the minority."

In addition to stands of book exhibits and vendors, three outdoor stages behind Borough Hall and two rooms in Borough Hall, including the historic courtroom, will be set up for readings by authors.

Temple and other members of the Brooklyn Literary Council reached out to authors to participate in the topical readings and panel discussions that are scheduled throughout the day.

Some readings fit into the broader literary world, like "The Soul of a Bestseller," where authors will read and discuss passages from books that inspired their own writing, and "Of Chaos and Fiction," in which a panel of authors will discuss how their books fit into a world of war and political trauma.

The Brooklyn Papers’ editor, Gersh Kuntzman, will moderate the panel, "Brooklyn Cooks, the World Eats" which will feature author Lyn Stallworth, chef Alan Harding, and restaurateur-author Kevin Rosen.

Other readings are Brooklyn-based: "The Streets Are Talking, Superborough: Brooklyn’s Indelible Stamp on Comic Book History," and "City on Edge," a collection of writers whose quirky style reflects the city they call home.

One of the authors reading in "City on Edge" is Boerum Hill resident Jonathan Ames.

"I think it’s good for the community of people who love books and literature to gather, to meet one another and to pass on to the next generation a love of books," said Ames, author of the "I Love You More Than You Know" essay collection and the novel, "Wake Up, Sir!"

Although Ames grew up in neighboring New Jersey, he has Brooklyn roots. Ames said his reading at the Brooklyn Book Festival might be an essay he wrote about his grandparents’ old house in Borough Park.

"Brooklyn deserves its own festival," said Ames. "There are plenty of writers in this borough and plenty of lovers of books, so why not have a literary festival? It’s a positive reason to gather in our troubled and confused world."

Another author participating in the celebration is Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Kenji Jasper, who will be promoting his urban book series "The Armory" for Akashic Books, and reading from his upcoming novel "Nostrand Avenue" (named, of course, for the Brooklyn street). Adding a twist to the traditional reading experience, Jasper said actors will accompany his reading and perform the text as he reads it.

"Brooklyn is such a hub for different cultures and energies, and I feel that artists here, and particularly authors, would love to showcase our stuff," said Jasper. "We compete with Manhattan, the Upper West Side and the Village, all the cliche writerly places. Brooklyn deserves a shot for itself. [The festival] will be a shining example of all the talent we have here."

Although the event is sure to attract book-lovers from all over the boroughs, Jasper has faith that anyone can find something to appreciate in the festival.

"Even if you’re not a book-lover, come out and walk around and take in the sights. There are stories here that everyone can relate to," said Jasper. "Some of those reluctant folks who only read self-help books and live by their TiVo should take one day and do something a bit old school. See what’s out there and what literature has to offer. Take a good old Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn and make the best of it."

Ensuring that the festival truly has something for every reader, one of the stages will be dedicated to children’s authors. Finalists from a young writers competition, held earlier this summer, called "Secret of the Street," will also be reading their work.

Fort Greene author Jennifer Egan, who is reading in "The Soul of a Bestseller" program, said she will definitely be bringing her two children, ages 3 and 5.

"I love the idea of getting them interested in books, and book readings as a type of performance," said Egan. "It’s an activity the whole family can do together, which I love."

The host of the day-long festival is as big a fan of books as he is of the borough itself.

"There are so many diversions for kids, but books are still the greatest source of knowledge," said Borough President Markowitz. "Parents should bring their kids, so they can emphasize the value and importance of reading, and meet the people they are supposed to emulate - these authors, instead of characters on TV screens."

The Brooklyn Book Festival will be a gathering of many of the greatest creative minds in Kings County and beyond, including Jonathan Lethem, Jhumpa Lahiri and Leonard Lopate. As Markowitz said, "Brooklyn is already the creative capital of NYC, and this event will only seek to confirm that!"


"The Brooklyn Book Festival" will be held Sept. 16, from 10 am to 6 pm, at Borough Hall (209 Joralemon St. at Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn). For more information, including a list of events and participating authors, visit www.brooklynbookfestival.org.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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