Culture Corner

Boston Book Festival, Part I: The Panels

This past weekend was the third annual Boston Book Festival and I am proud to say I’ve attended all three. Each year there have been a few hiccups, but the festival gets bigger and (for the most part) better each year. I apologize ahead of time as this is a VERY long post. Suffice to say I enjoyed the festival and am looking forward to next year’s event. Stay tuned as later this week I will post about the AWESOME workshop I attended and the books I (shouldn’t have) bought and the keynote.

One of the hardest things to do is decide which panels/discussions I want to attend. With a schedule like this:

it’s no wonder it’s hard to decide. (You can see a detailed version with links here.) Although I originally planned to attend four panels, a workshop and the keynote; and there were plenty other workshops I would love to have attended, I only attended three panels, a workshop and the keynote. Below are my thoughts/review of the panels.

The Panels

Alone Together: Anti-Social Networks?

I chose this workshop as it promised interesting discussions. An MIT professor discussing her work over the past 25 years on technology and relationships, a geek, and a couples therapist what couldn’t be great about this panel? I found it enlightening, if somewhat trite at points. Turkle’s (the professor) viewpoints were valid and yet often times stepped over the line of cautionary wisdom to somewhat doomsday advocate. Although I agree that many people spend too much time on their phones, often to the detriment of their relationships, I don’t agree that technology is a bad thing. Technology is not going away, as she noted, and the speed with which it is multiplying and advancing, we have to learn to adapt to it. Gilsdorf (adorable!) provided a much-needed counter-voice to the argument in that many people actually use technology to help them do things they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, like learning social skills. The third panelist, Hallowell, was a good addition but she didn’t leave much of an impression. What was most interesting about the panel was the focus on relationships (duh, the title/description said it would be), but not the overall impact of technology on society. I’m definitely interested in reading the books from last year’s tech panel compared to this years. The moderator was great and asked great questions and forced all the authors to clarify and didn’t allow them yo avoid answering questions.

Boys and Girls: Different, or Not So Much?

This panel I pretty much blocked out. I was running from the other panel to this one and got here a few minutes late and left a few minutes early for lunch. It was interesting enough, but there was no controversy and very little excitement in the panel. I almost wish I would’ve attended ‘What’s Up With Men?’ later in the day rather than this panel. From what I could tell all of the authors were well spoken and versed in their fields, especially Niobe Way who had some interesting things to say about boys relationships and the comparisons between young women’s relationships to each other. The moderator was forgettable and the few questions he posed were rather staged and somewhat forced. I’m glad I attended as the Abbey room was beautiful, overwhelmingly so as I clearly spent more time looking at the room’s detail than paying attention to the panel. You can see a picture of the room here.

Graphic Novels: Drawing the Story

This was, by far, my favorite panel. The three presenters were comedic and witty and just awkward/goofy enough they were endearing and not weird. I fell in love with Seth and what to check out his new work The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists. Everything about him was perfectly crafted from the modernized Ben Franklin glasses and the blonde streak in his hair to his slightly over-sized suit I just wanted to bottle him up and take him home! (Here’s a shot I found online of him.) However, the main reason I went to this panel was for Alison Bechdel. For those of you who don’t know, Alison Bechdel is the genius behind Dykes To Watch Out For. I have to admit I’ve never read a full strip and only know her from the historical pertinence of her cartoons, but I have read and fell in love with Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, her illustrated autobiography. I read it in undergrad and absolutely loved it – her humor and her talent provided a fun read and I can’t wait to re-read it now I have a signed edition (you’ll see a pic later this week)! I thought I owned a copy and may have one somewhere, but no idea. The third panelist, Daniel Clowes, was a bit dry but provided a good bit of humor in his dead pan voice. I thought his drawing style was interesting and the bit of his story we saw was intriguing, but not enough to make me want to run out and by the novel. The questions by the audience again were interesting and provoked humorous responses from the panelists. Including this was a brilliant move by Boston Book Festival, to bring a broader depth of literature/artistry to the festival. I can’t wait to find out what they’ll include next year.


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