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Boston Book Festival

October 30, 2012

Boston Book Festival 2012This past weekend we were in Boston for the 2012 Boston Book Festival. The Festival is an all-day Saturday event centred on Copley Square and featuring talks and panels by authors well-known (like Junot Diaz and ‘Lemony Snicket’) and not so well-known (like ourselves, outside of Tolkien studies). Subjects this year ranged from graphic novels and Victorian fiction to the Iliad and Edith Wharton. Our hour-long panel on The Hobbit, in which we spoke about Tolkien’s art, was shared with Corey Olsen, author of Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and moderated by Ethan Gilsdorf, freelance journalist and author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. We had an enthusiastic audience of about 200, many of whom stayed to buy a copy of The Art of The Hobbit from a convenient satellite bookshop and have us sign it. All went well despite Wayne’s battle with a cold (he thanked our audience in the manner of Bilbo at Lake Town: ‘Thag you very buch’).

Unfortunately, presenters at a festival or conference must often miss parts of it because of responsibilities to the event. Our book signing ran until it was too late for us to attend a panel on ‘Great Brits and Books’, which included Maria Tatar speaking about The Annotated Peter Pan; but Wayne had a brief chat with the panel’s moderator at a reception the evening before, where we also met with Corey, Ethan, and a representative of our publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Megan Wilson. HMH ensured that copies of The Art of The Hobbit were prominently on display. After our signing, we had lunch in the authors’ hospitality room provided by the Festival, strolled among publishers’ and merchants’ stalls in front of the Boston Public Library, and talked with fellow Tolkien enthusiasts Erik Mueller-Harder, Andy Peterson, and Mark Kaminsky who had come to our session. We then attended one of the afternoon panels, ‘Why Picture Books Matter’, which featured three current picture book makers and was moderated by literary and publishing historian Leonard Marcus.

We took some time after arriving in Boston on Friday to shop for sweaters at Brooks Brothers, and later made a quick check of the Tolkien offerings at the big Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center. On Saturday night, we spent a longer time at Barnes & Noble, followed by a meal of steaks frites at one of our favourite Boston restaurants, Brasserie Jo. For dessert, Christina had lemon tart with fresh fruit, while Wayne chose profiteroles, not realizing that Brasserie Jo’s profiteroles are not two or three small lumps of puff pastry filled with cream or ice cream, as one tends to find on dessert menus, but rather two towers of pastry with mounds of ice cream, all covered with chocolate sauce. Delicious, but too much!

We returned home on Sunday and prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Although we had rain and gusty winds late on Monday, and a tree branch of moderate size fell into our back garden, Williamstown was spared the strong winds that were forecast, and we had no flooding or loss of power.

Image: The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tent at the Boston Book Festival, with the Boston Public Library in the background. HMH were one of the local sponsors of the Festival.

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