Library of Congress National Book Festival 2012

BookNews, Washington, DC, June 2012:

With the President and Mrs. Obama serving as Co-Chairs, the 2012 Library of Congress National Book Festival will convene headlining poets and writers such as Philip Roth, Mario Vargas Llosa, Giannina Braschi, Jeffrey Eugenides, Philip Levine, and Nikky Finney.

The National Book Festival will take place on Saturday, September 22nd and Sunday, September 23, 2012, between 9th and 14th streets on the National Mall. The event, free and open to the public, will run from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, rain or shine. Festival-goers can meet and hear firsthand from the poets and writers, have books signed, and take their photos with PBS storybook characters. An estimated 200,000 people will attend.

Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for “American Pastoral.” In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. “The Plot Against America” won the Society of American Historians’ prize for outstanding historical novel on an American theme in 2003–2004.

Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, has used his writing to oppose authoritarianism and to condemn societies that fetter personal freedom. His works include “The Time of the Hero” (1963), “The Green House” (1966), “Conversation in the Cathedral” (1969), “The War of the End of the World” (1987), “The Storyteller” (1987) and “The Dream of the Celt” (2010). In the early 1970s Vargas Llosa began to advocate democracy and the free market. In the late 1980s he ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of Peru, recorded in his memoir “A Fish in the Water” (1993).


Giannina Braschi, called “one of the most revolutionary voices in Latin America today” by the PEN American World Voices Festival, wrote the postmodern poetry classic “Empire of Dreams” and the Spanglish tour de force novel “Yo-Yo Boing!” The Associated Press praised Braschi’s explosive new book “United States of Banana” (AmazonCrossing 2011) as a work of unlimited imagination and fearless language. She writes in a blend of poetry, prose, and drama, also mixing Spanish, Spanglish, and English. She writes in these three languages to express the enculturation process of millions of Hispanic immigrants to the USA and to explore the three politic options of her native Puerto Rico–Nation, Colony or State. She has won grant/awards from National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Ford, Danforth, and Reed Foundations, Puerto Rican Institute of Culture, and PEN American Center.

Jeffrey Eugenides, a native of Detroit, published his first novel, “The Virgin Suicides,” to acclaim in 1993. His novel “Middlesex” won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Yale Review, Best American Short Stories, The Gettysburg Review and Granta’s “Best of Young American Novelists.”

Nikky Finney was born in South Carolina, a child of activists. She came of age during the civil rights and Black Arts Movements. Finney has authored four books of poetry: Head Off & Split (2011); The World Is Round (2003); Rice (1995); and On Wings Made of Gauze (1985). Professor of English and creative writing at the University of Kentucky, Finney also authored Heartwood (1997) edited The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (2007), and co- founded the Affrilachian Poets. Finney’s fourth book of poetry, Head Off & Split was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry.

The Library of Congress Pavilion will showcase treasures in the Library’s vast online collections and offer information about Library programs. Sponsor Target will reprise its “Family Storytelling Stage” featuring authors and musical acts popular with young children. The 2012 National Book Festival is made possible through the generous support of National Book Festival Board Co-Chair David M. Rubenstein; Charter Sponsors Target, The Washington Post and Wells Fargo; Patrons the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and PBS KIDS; Contributors Barnes & Noble; Digital Bookmobile powered by OverDrive and Scholastic Inc.; and—in the Friends category–the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, The Hay Adams and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thanks also to C-SPAN2’s Book TV, The Junior League of Washington and The Links. The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may be accessed through the Library’s website,


Contemporary Writers on the Classics

PEN World Voices Festival: Special Event
Thursday, May 3, 2012 at Baruch Performing Arts Center, Engelman Recital Hall, 55 Lexington Ave., New York City, from 2:30pm–4 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

Enjoy a free, lively panel discussion with PEN festival writers Gabriel Adamesteanu, Giannina Braschi, Ib Michael, and Laurie Sheck, moderated by John Brenkman.  In his famous essay “Why Read the Classics?” Italo Calvino writes: “The classics are books that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.” How does this “peculiar influence” resonate for the writer? For Giannina Braschi characters like Hamlet, Zarathustra, and Segismundo mingle and debate with common folk and icons such as the Statue of Liberty in modern day New York.  The Associated Press calls Braschi’s new book UNITED STATES OF BANANA–a work of limitless imagination and a fushion of irony and fearlessness.  For the fifth consecutive year, Baruch College’s Great Works Program invites international authors to select a classic from the school’s curriculum and discuss its influence within their life and work.

Yo-Yo Boing! (a scene from the bilingual edition)

 Bilingual edition–The era of the generalist is coming back. The specialist is dated.  The nose specialist, does he consider your eyes, your mouth, your aura, your personality, before he breaks your nose and turns you into another chiguagua.  No, he goes cross-eyed staring at your nose.  Jack of all trades–the specialist diminishes the value of knowing it all, or at least, trying to grasp it all, and adds–Master of none.  Un especialista, just for discerning the details, is not un sabio.  El sabio puede ser un necio.  Mira lo que decía Alcibíades de Sócrates, borracho, en las tabernas, bebiendo vino, con los dientes podridos.  Mistaken for a beggar.  How can a wise man look so base?  Las apariencias engañan.

–No engañan, my darling, confunden. If I say–here, pretzels, here, porn films, here, sexy bodies–then, they will flock to me–looking for cheap thrills, thinking I am another Madonna, but in the middle of my show, I’ll play a trick on them, as they have been playing tricks on me.  Saying it’s great, when it tastes like shit.  I’ll do the opposite.  I’ll dress like a slutty punk, but I’ll give them the real thing, and I don’t mean coke.  I’ll give them poetry.

–What kind of poetry do you write?

–What do you mean?

–I write sonnets, and you?

–I can’t fit life into rhyme scheme.  It would be a straight jacket.  Rhythm is free.  How can I accept rhythms of ancient ages when I’m feeling my own rhythm.  The velocity of cars–the engines of our time–concords, faxes, guns and subways.  The way we talk and the way we commute.  Do we have time to write novels.  What is immortal in a novel is not the form which is long dead, but the context.  And the same with poetry–what is said–that remains, the way we say things, changes.

–Which means, you write blank verse like Neruda.

–No verse.

–Like Rimbaud–or BaudelaireLittle Prose Poems?

Arthur Rimbaud at the age of seventeen by Étie...

Image via Wikipedia

–I do not write little poems.  I write big books.  Which is not to imply that I like everything in them. 

–Then why do you publish them?

–Because it’s not a matter of liking.  Because to tell you the truth, many times, I don’t like myself.  What am I going to do?  Kill myself because I don’t like myself.  No, I exist.  Those poems I do not like function in the whole work.  And they work well.  So, it’s not a matter of liking.  I don’t like my nose, but it exists and it works well.

–You could also get a nose job.

–Why, I can breathe.

–Do you write every day?

–I don’t have something to say everyday.

–I always find something to say.  I have the feeling we are very different poets.  I’m sure Suzana told you that I won a poetry contest at the Poetry Society of America.  It had an environmental theme.  What do you write about?

–I don’t have themes.  I have flavors like Bazooka.  My favorite is the pink one.  I love to suck all the sugar out of the pink one.

–Flavors don’t last, especially Bazooka.  Poetry has a mission and I take my role very seriously.

–So do I.  I want poetry to be a fashion show–to have  a taste of frivolity–savoir faire–a taste of time at its peak–Kenzo, Gigli and Gautier.  I’m more excited by Bergdorf’s windows than the contemporary poetry I’ve read.

–Who have you read?

–I don’t read any of them.

–It shows. You must realize you’re limiting your audience by writing in both languages.  To know a language is to know a culture.  You neither respect one nor the other.

–If I respected languages like you do, I wouldn’t write at all.  El muro de Berlín fue derribado.  Why can’t I do the same.  Desde la torre de Babel, las lenguas han sido siempre una forma de divorciarnos del resto de la humanidad.  Poetry must find ways of breaking distance.  I’m not reducing my audience.  On the contrary, I’m going to have a bigger audience with the common markets–in Europe–in America.  And besides, all languages are dialects that are made to break new grounds.  I feel like Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio, and I even feel like Garcilaso forging a new language.   

Saludo al nuevo siglo, el siglo del nuevo lenguaje de América, y le digo adiós a la retórica separatista y a los atavismos.

Saluda  al  sol,  araña,

no  seas  rencorosa.  

Un beso,

Giannina Braschi