Spencertown Academy Arts Center’s 15th annual Festival of Books will take place online this year, with virtual events running from September 4 through October 12.
The Festival will feature Zoom events with distinguished authors and documentary filmmakers, children’s programs, and an online book sale. Featured authors include Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Kolker, Richard Gehr, Ed Ward, and Jacqueline Rogers, plus the team behind the acclaimed documentary film, The Booksellers, including director D.W. Young and producers Judith Mizrachy and Dan Wechsler. Admission is free to all events, but advance registration is required as Zoom capacity is limited. Registration is open now for most sessions; others will follow soon. The online book sale will open for Spencertown Academy members on Friday, September 4 at 10:00am and for the general public on Saturday, September 5 at 10:00am. For details, please see www.spencertownacademy.org.
The Festival, which began in 2006 as a book sale to raise funds for the Academy’s community arts programs, has grown into one of the biggest and most eagerly anticipated cultural events of the year. Academy Board members David Highfill and Jill Kalotay co-chair the Festival.
“We have a stellar line-up of authors for 2020,” says Highfill, vice president and executive editor at William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. “Joyce Carol Oates, surely one of our most ambitious and prodigiously talented novelists, will discuss her new novel about a troubled family; journalist Robert Kolker will talk about his number one New York Times bestseller about the trauma of schizophrenia running through one family; David Gehr will explore the work of several brilliant New Yorker cartoonists; and Ed Ward will entertain us with stories of 1960s and 70s rock & roll, the most evergreen of pop culture topics; and much more.”
“Funds raised by the Festival of Books contributed a substantial amount to the Academy’s annual budget, and we hope to garner a small portion of that through our online book sale this year. Please note that Academy members have early access to the online sale. Make sure your membership is current or you may miss out on this special opportunity,” adds Kalotay. “It’s been a real learning curve, for sure, and I think the result is terrific. Much as we’ll miss gathering in person, we look forward to enjoying stimulating literary events at home and, of course, still shopping for fabulous books. The Academy is even going to share its Cookbook Café recipes for To-Die-For, No-Alarm Vegetarian Chili, Northern Cornbread, and Lemon Cake—the beloved signature fare of our Festival of Books.”
ONLINE BOOK SALE
Traditionally, the heart of the Festival is a giant book sale featuring more than 15,000 new and gently used books. This year’s online edition of the sale will focus on “The Special Book Room” collection of about 250 books, plus a sprinkling of CDs, DVDs, and ephemera. Volunteer Wayne Greene has expertly examined covers and spines, scanned pages for signatures or marginalia, and assessed their value in antiquarian or contemporary circles. The offerings feature richly illustrated, large format volumes in like-new condition, and include art, architecture, biography/memoir, cookbooks, fiction, history, music/film, photography, signed books, and others. Quirky or collectible, rare or simply stunning, all are priced accordingly but affordably—ranging from $5 to $350 and everything in between.
Among the most valuable treasures to be offered are The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, a 1905 12-voume collection of Lincoln’s letters, lectures, and speeches (including a fold-out facsimile of Gettysburg address) edited by John G. Nicolas and John Hay ($350); a folio-sized coffee table book titled Muhammad Ali Memories – Photographs by Neil Leifer, signed by Muhammad Ali ($250); and Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe with illustrations by Harry Clarke, a 1933 hardcover in near fine condition ($275). The latter is considered one of Clarke’s greatest works and his Gothic style sits eerily well with Poe’s brilliant prose. The online book sale will open to Academy members on Friday, September 4 at 10:00am and to the general public on Saturday, September 5 at 10:00am; it will run through Monday, October 12 at midnight, or until the shelves empty. Note: Purchases must be picked up by appointment at Spencertown Academy; there will be no shipping.
Saturday, September 5
The Festival kicks off at 10:00am with children’s book author and illustrator Jacqueline Rogers reading from her latest book, Goblin Moon, a spirited story that captures Halloween fun. She will then lead a related workshop in which participants draw goblins and create a Halloween scene using the shapes in the alphabet. Bring a pencil with eraser, some blank paper, and your imagination. Ages 5 and up. 30 minutes.
At 4:30pm, The Booksellers director D.W. Young and producers Dan Wechsler and Judith Mizrachy will discuss their documentary film about antiquarian booksellers, the impact of technology on the trade, and the importance of books as physical objects. Parker Posey, who served as executive producer for the film, hopes to pop into the chat if her schedule permits. The film is both a loving celebration of book culture and a serious exploration of the future of the book. It features interviews with important dealers, prominent collectors, and writers such as Susan Orlean and Gay Talese. To view The Booksellers in advance at home, please see www.booksellersmovie.com for streaming options.
Sunday, September 6
At 4:30pm, novelist Joyce Carol Oates will discuss her latest book, Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars., in which she examines the current state of the nation through the prism of a family tragedy. Stark and penetrating, the novel is a vivid exploration of race, psychological trauma, class warfare, grief, and eventual healing, as well as an intimate family novel in the tradition of the author’s bestselling We Were the Mulvaneys. She will be joined in conversation with writer Daphne Kalotay, whose latest novel is Blue Hours.
Wednesday, September 9
At 7:30pm, journalist Robert Kolker will discuss his narrative nonfiction book, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family. It’s the heartrending story of a midcentury American family: six of Don and Mimi Galvin’s 12 children were diagnosed with schizophrenia. This medical mystery was so extraordinary that they were one of the first families studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. With clarity and compassion, Kolker weaves the science of schizophrenia, the era of institutionalization and lobotomy, and the search for genetic markers with one family’s legacy of suffering, love, and hope. He will be joined in conversation with journalist Seth Rogovoy, editor of The Rogovoy Report.
Saturday, September 12
At 10:00am, children’s book author and illustrator Jacqueline Rogers will return with a second workshop titled “Create a Halloween Book Cover.” Participants will follow along as Rogers draws a Halloween character, a brief story line, and a title in block letters. They will be encouraged to bring their own details and ideas into their drawings. Ages 8 and up. 45 minutes.
At 4:30pm, Richard Gehr will briefly discuss his book, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists and then interview two current New Yorker cartoonists, David Sipress and Emily Flake. The richly varied styles and personal stories of a dozen New Yorker cartoonists are featured in his book, along with a brief history of the New Yorker cartoon itself. Sipress’s work has appeared in the magazine since 1998 and Flake has published more than 100 cartoons in the magazine since 2008.
Sunday, September 13
4:30pm, Ed Ward will discuss his book, The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 2: 1964–1977: The Beatles, the Stones, and the Rise of Classic Rock. One of the deans of pop music criticism, Ward has been in and around music journalism for decades. He is well known to fans of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” where he was rock-and-roll historian for more than 30 years, and to readers of Rolling Stone and a host of other publications. He will be joined in conversation with Gerald Seligman, who has over 35 years experience in the music industry in the US and abroad.