BY MARK SARVAS
Clearly, getting coverage posted in a timely manner is proving to be a challenge. Expect the lag to continue through the weekend.
However, first and most important thought: If you are in NYC and have not attended any of these events yet, do so. Now. These events have uniformly been fascinating, well-presented and thought provoking - in short, it's been the best festival of its kind that we've ever attended and we strongly encourage you to check into any of the remaining events over the next few days.
Herewith, thumbnail impressions of the first day's events:
Event: History and the Truth of Fiction
Participants: Arthur Japin, Laila Lalami, Imma Monsó, Michael Wallner; moderated by Colum McCann
Attendance: Strong - 50+
Logline: On the obligations to "truth" and "facts" when writing fiction dealing with historical events.
Impressions: An awfully strong start to the festival for us. We mentioned to a friend that if this was the level of discourse to expect from the whole weekend, we were going to have fun, indeed. McCann was a witty and thoughtful moderator and the panel stayed remarkably focused, even as they expressed occasional disagreement with one another. Especially great to see Monsó present with a translator, emphasizing the international nature of the event.
Highlights: Japin giving a reading-cum-performance from his novel that can only be described as Shatner-eqsue ... Laila on the clear distinction between "facts" and "truth" ... McCann suggesting that Leopold Bloom is more real to him than his own great-grandfater (who he never knew), and suggesting that writers are the "unacknowledged historians of the future."
Event: Town Hall Readings
Participants: With Don DeLillo, Kiran Desai, Neil Gaiman, Nadine Gordimer, Alain Mabanckou, Steve Martin, Salman Rushdie, Pia Tafdrup, Tatyana Tolstaya, Saadi Youssef
Attendance: Packed - near sellout
Logline: Ten A-list authors from around the world reading 10-minute excerpts from their work dealing with themes of Home.
Impressions: We had more room in our cramped coach seat on American Airlines than we had in the unbearably uncomfortable Town Hall. But it was worth suffering through for a chance to hear some of these luminaries read. Steve Martin, reading from his memoir-in-progress, was entertaining as one would expect; DeLillo was an unremarkable reader, whereas Desai gave one of the liveliest readings of the night.
Highlights: Alain Mabanckou read a lovely poem in French, which was then read in English by an interpreter ... and Danish poet Pai Tafdrup also read one of her poems in Danish, a wonderful touch as befits an international festival ... Rushdie read from The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Gordimer read excerpts from a new short story ... Rushdie opened the proceedings, imploring "You, Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man" (the who always forgets to shut if off despite requests) for compliance ... and he took note at the outset of the remarkably youthful makeup of the audience which proposed "means maybe the novel is not" dead. (Forgive our horrible photographs but we were up in the balcony with a crummy digital camera. Yes, that is Rushdie.)
We're off to head in for another rainy day of events but will post Day Two as soon as we can, which will include brief video clips of Pico Iyer's event and George Konrad reading in Hungarian. More presently.