the brooklyn book festival is the event of the year for me. it’s the event that marks the end of summer in my head, the beginning of fall, and it’s the event i look forward to because it’s books, authors, readers — how much better can something get?
this year, i had the opportunity to take over the official bkbookfest instagram account (twice!), and it was so much fun, walking around and sharing random things from the day. i also took over the account earlier in the week to share some photos from previous years because this was my sixth year at the festival — six years, can you believe it? six years since i literally stumbled upon the festival that first year i moved to new york because it was a sunday and i’d somehow talked myself into going to church and borough hall was my subway stop that year. six years because i’ve been back every year since.
and i can’t wait to keep this tradition going next year.
highlights: meeting people from bookstagram “in real life,” getting coffee, going to panels together, standing around and sweating and chatting. exchanging hugs, hearing voices, revelling in the familiar. as it turns out, i’m not as much of a total introvert or a misanthrope as i thought. i love meeting people and being around people.
hearing authors talk! it’s always a pleasure hearing authors talk, especially when they’re on a panel with great moderators, like that 10 am session with jenny zhang (!!!) and julie buntin moderated by jia tolentino. jia tolentino has been knocking it out of the park for the new yorker these last few months. jenny zhang is always a delight. julie buntin made me want to read her book, which i’ve heard amazing things about but haven’t read yet.
the cookbook panel! there is always a cookbook panel (or there was this year and last; i admit i didn’t go to the cookbook panel in 2015), and it is always awesome (maybe i should stop saying “always” when i’ve only been to this year’s and last’s). this year, the theme was cookbooks and cooking at home, and chef sohui kim of the good fork was there along with cookbook authors raquel pelzel and stacy adimando, and i loved this panel because i think about that question a lot — exactly who are cookbooks written for? what are they written for? because you have cookbooks that are more like coffee table books (pretty much anything by phaidon) because the recipes are much too complicated for any home cook to attempt (like, seriously, who’s cooking from the noma books? the benu book?). and what about cookbooks that are more to record a restaurant’s history/moment in time? and how should food in cookbooks be photographed? do we want them to be exquisite and perfectly plated like the chef would plate in her restaurant? isn’t that too daunting? but what about this trend right now with artfully just-consumed food? what is kristen kish’s book going to be like? because when you have a chef who’s all about technique and has a more elevated, formal style of cooking, can that translate into recipes that an average home cook might want to attempt? and who is an average home cook, anyway? how do you measure that?!?
does someone have to cook from a cookbook for that cookbook to be considered successful?
because i rarely cook from cookbooks — my measure of a good cookbook is if it tells a story of that chef, that restaurant, the food, well.
coming back from that list of questions i spend kind of a stupid amount of time thinking about … (i think a lot about food. in all forms.) (i’m also really excited for the kish cookbook. and the cherry bombe cookbook.) (i also spend a lot of time thinking about how i can get publishers to send me cookbooks …)
more highlights: catching up with friends and getting dos toros and taking over outlets because my phone was dying. discovering another cool lit mag (the point) (it’s based in chicago), buying more back issues of the common, chatting with chef sohui kim and getting my book signed and gushing about the just-opened jeju noodle bar in the west village. chatting with authors and them not being weird about me being all OMG I LOVE YOUR WORK I THINK YOU’RE GREAT HI! sweating non-stop, taking an ice cream break at one of my favorite ice cream shops (van leeuwen), finally dropping in at books are magic and buying a mug and checking out the space and, oh, buying a cute enamel pin, too. (i’m starting to get into enamel pins.)
stepping into regular visitors and discovering that they make a great unsweetened matcha latte. roaming around my old stomping grounds (because downtown brooklyn/cobble hill/boerum hill — this whole area, all the way to park slope, gowanus, prospect heights, and clinton hill, is my brooklyn) (i know; it’s bougie as hell; and i don’t know how that works because i’ve always been broke as hell). just being in those masses of people, of readers and writers and publishers, this community of people who love stories and story-telling and came out en masse on sunday to be a part of something that i believe, that i believe they believe is a vital, thriving part of life.
i’ve walked this stretch of dean street from cobble hill to park slope so many times. i’ve walked it to go to blue bottle, to one girl cookies, to trader joe’s, and i’ve walked it in peace, in joy, in tears. i’ve walked it while starving, while full, while panicked, while depressed, while content, inspired, angry, worried, despondent, happy, lonely. i’ve walked it and been told by a nice lady that i shouldn’t look so sad, life would be all right. i’ve walked it as my arm went numb from the groceries hanging on my shoulder.
i’ve walked this stretch of dean street on nights i was too anxious, too depressed, to do anything else. i’ve walked it because i was forcing myself to get out of my apartment, to do something, even if it were walking and walking and walking. i’ve walked it to nurse my broken, fractured brain and heart. i’ve walked it to exhaust my insomnia into letting me sleep. i’ve walked it to mull over story problems, writing problems, life problems.
i walked this stretch of dean street after the brooklyn book festival, after dinner with a friend and her boyfriend. it was humid, and it was night, and it was everything familiar — the trees, the buildings, the house with the zebra in its front yard, a zebra that now has giraffe friends. i walked it with my heart throbbing inside me because, yes, i do concede now that coming back to california earlier this year was what i needed, that this move literally saved my life, but it hurt still, it hurts, but it hurts now in the way that tells me, you are alive, and it is on you to find your way home again.
i walked this stretch of dean street again knowing exactly where i want and need to be, that 2017 has been a weird, incredible year, despite all the struggles and pain and disappointment, that i am lucky to be here, to have the people in my life whom i do, people who have and continue to do so much for me, to love me, to care for me, to support me.
i walked this stretch of dean street, knowing that this won’t be the last — i know i will walk this street countless times again.