While attending school in Boston (2009/2010), I was inspired by The Year of 52 Adventures, and I made a point of using my weekends to explore much of what Boston had to offer. The Annual Boston Book Festival in October was always my favorite event.
What could be more exciting to a library student than a book festival? I can’t think of much… so it was only natural to pick the Annual Boston Book Festival as a weekend adventure. I had checked out the schedule of author presenters ahead of time and discovered this year there were two names I recognized, Ken Burns, and Alicia Silverstone. Unfortunately, both were presenting at the same time! Having watched Burns’ Lewis & Clark documentary twice in school, and having enjoyed Silverstone’s acting in Clueless, it was a tough call, but I decided to go to Burns’ talk.
We arrived early, and almost not early enough! We joined the queue at the auditorium door where we proceeded forward and just as we got to the front of the line, we were told all chairs were full! It was just by luck that they then said there were three single seats left in the overflow room where we could watch a live feed of the presentation. We took them.
Ken Burns talked for about only 15 minutes, but it was interesting. Now I want to watch all of his documentaries. Afterward we sneaked into the back of the other room so we could see him in person during the Q & A session. We then scurried to line up for an autograph. While the book fair organizers tried to coral the crowds they told anybody who would listen that the authors would not sign anything unless you had bought their book. None of us had purchased Burns’ book, The National Parks – America’s Best Idea, but we decided to test the system. Thankfully Burns was nice enough to sign the program of us poor and/or cheap students! (I am now working my way though the National Parks documentary and quite enjoying it!)
Alecia Silverstone’s presentation was in a different section of the Boston Public Library, so after getting our programs autographed by Ken Burns we sprinted to the older half of the building hoping to find Silverstone. We managed to locate her just as the current authors session was wrapping up. She was sitting at the autograph table and her line of autograph seekers had depleted. Here too we were told by the stern book fair line organizers that she would not sign our programs, we would have to purchase her book. We must have looked crestfallen enough that Silverstone took pity on us, because she then spoke up herself and said she would definitely sign our programs. Ms. Silverstone, you still have me as a fan!
This made my day complete…
…or at least I thought until I discovered free ice cream and chocolate at the outside booths! Then my day was complete.
The second year I was in Boston, I returned to the Book Fair with even more excitement than I had the previous year. This year Bill Bryson was speaking! Bryson, one of my favorite authors, is a humor travel writer. If you have been reading this blog since the start of my England trip, you’ll know that I aspire to write just like Bryson. He has a dry wit, which must come from living in Britain for 20 years. I don’t think I’ve quite mastered his humor, but he certainly knows how to find it when the traveling gets rough. I admire that. This year I bought his book ahead of time and showed up super early so that I had one of the first spots in the queue for his presentation.
As we crowded into the auditorium I narrowly avoided sitting in a seat that was unexplainedely soaking in the middle. As the seats filled with eager fans, we all pointed out the wet seat and eventually all seats but this one were taken. Finally one late fan came in searching for a seat and we regretfully pointed out that this seat was wet and perhaps he might not want to sit there. Surprisingly he then said, “To hear Bill? I don’t care!!” and took the seat. So you see, there are fans, and then there are FANS! Eventually Bryson took the stage and I listened with enthusiasm as this author, who was born in Iowa and spent his young adult life in Britain, slipped in and out of a British accent fluidly. Afterwards I rushed out to the autograph line. Unfortunately there were so many people in line that Bryson would not do photos with his fans because we would have been there all day. But I did get my book signed and had a friend take a stockerish photo while he signed my book.
If you’re not familiar with Bryson’s books, I highly suggest doing yourself a favor and listening to an audio version of any of his books narrated by the author himself. Perhaps start with the Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, you won’t be sorry!