Look for the ArtsCriticATL.com logo at the festival. We’re a media sponsor and some of our writers will be stationed at Booth 309C, between the new courthouse and Eddie’s Attic. We’ll be around all weekend. Please stop by and say hello.
It’s possible that every word in the name “Decatur Book Festival” is not as accurate as it might be. That’s the theory of festival founder Daren Wang.
Yes, the festival, which has its sixth incarnation this weekend, September 2-4, is set mainly on the Decatur Square and surrounding areas, but it draws visitors from all over metro Atlanta and even neighboring states. Billed as the largest independent book festival in the United States, it’s free (except for a handful of musical events), open to the public and frequently packed.
Then there’s the word “book.” It’s not just about books. This year’s festival will have two performances by Theatrical Outfit (the currently running drama “The Green Book” and a draft script reading of Eudora Welty’s “The Optimist’s Daughter”) and a presentation by the Atlanta Opera about its upcoming adaptation of Joel Chandler Harris’ Br’er Rabbit stories. There’ll be slam poetry, as always, and a storytelling event by Carapace, a spin-off of The Moth, about stories of 9/11, keyed to the upcoming 10th anniversary, at Eddie’s Attic. (Last year’ storytelling evening, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, was so standing-room-only that more than 100 people stood in an alley and listened on speakers.)
Finally there’s the word “festival” itself, which describes the three-day weekend but not the year-round events DBF has been mounting with increasing frequency. Its next biggie after this weekend will be to sponsor novelist Charles Frazier’s (“Cold Mountain”) book tour stop at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston on October 5 to promote his new novel, “Nightwoods.”
“It’s really about telling stories more than anything,” said Wang of the festival he launched in 2006. “We really like stretching the boundaries of this being only about books.”
But even with cooking demonstrations, children’s games, opera and a fair bit of beer and wine consumption among attendees (and some authors), the festival attracts mainly book lovers who come to hear favorite authors read and answer questions, and to get their books signed.
Among returning festival favorites this year are local authors Melissa Fay Greene, Maryn McKenna, Jack Wilkinson, Patti Callahan Henry, Mary Kay Andrews, Joshilyn Jackson, Hank Klibanoff and Emily Griffin. Others to take note of include Karen Russell, whose best-selling novel “Swamplandia” got a lot of attention; Max Allan Collins, well known for noir and graphic novels; Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of the kooky “Revenge of the Radioactive Lady”; Decatur author Thomas Mullen, whose new time-travel novel “The Revisionists” is getting some buzz; and Cheryl Tan, author of the best seller “A Tiger in the Kitchen.”
The keynote address, which is free but requires a ticket — and the smart folks arrive early — will be by husband-and-wife duo Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis (above), who are promoting their new family-friendly, Narnia-esque novel “Wildwood.” (Tickets are available at Eagle Eye Books, Charis Books and More, Blue Elephant Book Shop, Little Shop of Stories or online at TicketAlternative.com.) Meloy is well known to indie rock fans as the hyperliterate songwriter and lead singer of the Decemberists, so expect a strong hipster turnout. It’s at 8 p.m. Friday, September 2, in Agnes Scott College’s Presser Hall.
Also scheduled: well-known Southern writer Clyde Edgerton will read from his new book, “The Night Train,” and also sing and play guitar. And Decatur singer-songwriter Caroline Herring will perform “The Little House Songs,” inspired by Virginia Lee Burton’s picture book “The Little House.