This week heralded the controversial decision to award a Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan. Some applauded the idea, others found it strange or felt it was wrong to award it to a popular musician, no matter how influential as a songwriter.
Part of the consternation that greeted the Nobel announcement stems from the fear that literary culture is already shrinking. There are so many great writers who do important, powerful work, in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, that standing up for Literature in the classical sense is seen as an important way of celebrating literature itself – as opposed to songwriting, which is not quite the same as poetry. Others feel it’s a breath of fresh air into a rarified, insular world. (For more pros and cons, see this New York Times article.)
In this climate of “what is literature, anyway?” I want to encourage people to go out and celebrate literature, in whatever local festival is offered. The Boston Book Festival takes place on Saturday, October 15, and features a full day of panels with writers talking about writing and the world (mass incarceration, architecture, booksellers; booths of booksellers, MFA programs, literary journals, indie publishers, and so on. Poets, playwrights, screenwriters, memoirists, fiction writers, nonfiction of all descriptions, graphic works, children’s and YA literature – all have a home here. There are household name authors and lesser-knowns. Walking tours, music performances, puppet shows… it’s a feast and celebration of words, and draws a huge crowd every year. There are long lines for talks and readings by popular authors (you may have to prioritize which lines to spend time in – don’t expect to just walk up and get in). There’s a real buzz in the air, of people getting together around something they love.
It’s also the season for Open Studios, where neighborhoods and cities have walking itineraries to visit the studios of working artists of every description – painters, photographers, printmakers, sculptors, fabric artists, jewelry designers – it’s always fascinating to see what people are doing. Inspirational, as well. Whatever your area of creative activity, make an effort every once in awhile to go to film or literature festivals, gallery openings, open studios, or other events, whether they are in your particular medium or not. They make great Artist Dates, a chance to fill the well for our own creative endeavors.
Do you go to these kinds of events? Which ones? You don’t have to make it to SXSW or Burning Man to gain creative inspiration and energy.
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