The Six Best Things at The Baltimore Book Festival

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“I’ve figured out a solution for the drought in Texas,” CityLit Project founder Gregg Wilhelm quipped on Friday night, amidst the last trickles of a day-long downpour. “We’ll just move the Baltimore Book Festival there…” Since the city’s annual celebration of all things literary always seems to arrive with a giant rain cloud hanging over its head, he might be on to something.

But after a soggy Friday came a clear and muggy weekend, perfect for wandering around the be-tented Mt. Vernon Place. Did anyone else think that the crowd had a higher-than-average proportion of glasses-wearers? Our picks for festival highlights (and a few low points) below:

  • Sherman Alexie. Okay, this guy is just a ringer. Besides being brilliant, he’s also totally charming and funny. Swoon. Alexie penned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a novelized account of growing up Native American, which is this year’s pick for One Maryland One Book. Read it.

 

  • The Peabody Library. We stopped in to look at the naturalist illustration exhibit, but mostly just gaped at how beautiful the building is. How do we always manage to forget that a building this lovely exists in Baltimore? And that we can stop by for free (during opening hours, of course)?

 

  • The Maryland Romance Writers. One of the most cohesive and intense subcultures we’ve had a chance to run across in a long while. They hosted their own readings tent at the festival, and pretty much every time we came by, it was packed. They wore feathered fascinators. They knew about e-book marketing. They raffled away a “romance bandits-themed gift basket.” We are impressed.

 

  • Why Do We Kill?:  The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore discussion. A homicide detective (Kelvin Sewell) meets an investigative journalist (Stephen Janis) in a city plagued by crime and corruption. And then they write a book together. It’s like a real-life version of The Wire! (Which is something these guys are probably tired of hearing.) Two good talkers, each with a lifetime of good stories and a fervent belief that things in our city should be better than they are.

 

  • The Zine Bazaar. While we love the internet as much as the next web-based publication, sometimes it’s nice to get your hands on something that’s been hand-stapled. It’s the most independent that publishing can get, and the DIY spirit is infectious.

 

  • The Friday Night Literature Party at the Metro Gallery. The book fair officially ended at 8pm, which seems like a waste. So a bunch of local literary luminaries hosted a reading/dance party at the Metro Gallery. The readers were funny, the outfits were top-notch, the dancing was enthusiastic.

And, alas, a few low points:

  • People who take up 25 percent of the Q&A time with an inane “question” that is actually just their personal opinion, with a slight upward inflection at the end. Look, there’s a reason you’re in the audience and not on stage.

 

  • The frantic forced cheer of the cooking demonstrators in their fake IKEA kitchen set up. Trying to field questions, chop onions, keep up a helpful patter, and not knock anything over is just too much to expect of one person. There’s a reason cooking TV shows are pre-recorded.

 

  • $8 sausage. That’s just ridiculous.



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