Video: Bat Segundo Visits the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival

On Sunday, September 12, 2010, Bat Segundo — or some gentleman claiming to be him — went to the Brooklyn Book Festival to conduct some slipshod journalism. While Mr. Segundo did catch sight of a television truck, he did not observe any attractive reporters walking the quad and talking to the many amicable literary people who had taken the time to congregate in the rain.

Fearing that there was a journalistic vacuum, Mr. Segundo attempted to fill in the gap. He did not know how to hold an umbrella and asked the authors to do this for him.

In his first interview, Bat Segundo met up with Karen Lord, a very friendly woman who happened to be a novelist. She identified herself as the author of Redemption in Indigo, a novel put out by Small Beer Press. Mr. Segundo learned more about the book, but proceeded to complain about New York literary snobs who look down on genre. Despite this apparently egalitarian position, Mr. Segundo failed to understand his philosophical hypocrisy when considering who was actually holding the umbrella.

More rain poured. And Mr. Segundo had more interviews to conduct. The precipitation did not deter Mr. Segundo’s efforts to talk with Sean Ferrell, the author of a novel named Numb. Mr. Ferrell had a booth of his own — quite far away from the Harper Perennial booth. Yet while Harper Perennial had a tent covering, Mr. Ferrell was provided with no such protection, save for a dutiful smile and a can-do attitude. The two gentlemen discussed the weather and just what it takes to attract a literary crowd on a rainy day. He too proved unexpectedly cooperative in holding the umbrella above Mr. Segundo’s head.

In the early afternoon, Mr. Segundo accosted a very excitable gentleman named Michael Northrop. There was apparently something called a “flashmob” set to go down at the stroke of two o’clock. And Mr. Segundo had the good fortune of arriving only a few minutes before the momentous clang! He remained uncertain as to what a flashmob was, but he was informed that some fly-by-night outfit called One Story had set it all up.

The Brooklyn Book Festival: Hopelessly Manhattanized?

I don’t wish to sound ungrateful for the gratis plastic cup of wine that I enjoyed on Friday night, but the Brooklyn Book Festival launch party was more than a tad pedantic. The crowd of elitist insiders, bored organizers, and exhausted publicists — all hoping that cheese and crackers would serve as a surrogate dinner, all speedily adopting that predictable industry pretense of snubs and meaningless status, all more than a little uncomfortable with Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz’s call for a moment of silence for the late Tim Russert — gathered together in a manner that was more evocative of Manhattan rather than Brooklyn. Circular buttons of various Brooklyn neighborhoods were available with elliptical offerings of nuts on various tables. But my old neighborhood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, wasn’t represented among this mostly Caucasian representative provincialism. I suspect that this jittery atmosphere, combined with a recent bout of deadline-induced cabin fever, caused me to be excessively ebullient. And thus I apologize to my blogging peers and friends if I affrighted or unnerved them in the process.

Nevertheless, the truth of the matter was that one could not be one’s natural literary self at this shindig. And nobody had the heart or the decency to suggest congregating elsewhere. We were obliged to stay for some reason, believing that the name Brooklyn would magically translate into streetcred.

But who were the big authors announced? Jonathan Franzen — a man who openly joked that he had only spent three nights of his life in Brooklyn, remarking that they were not happy. Joan Didion — who has almost certainly done more for Manhattan than Brooklyn. Dorothy Allison — who will certainly be more accepted in Brooklyn than in Manhattan, assuming that the Brooklyn Book Festival has not become as hopelessly Manhattanized as I fear.