The Montclair Literary Festival, a celebration of books and ideas
Like a marathon of words, the third annual Montclair Literary Festival represented an exciting and enriching opportunity for book lovers of all ages to connect with local and award-winning authors. This four-day event included discussions, panels, workshops and children’s activities.
Organized by Succeed2gether, a charity that helps local children achieve their academic potential, the Festival offered an ambitious program which included 137 authors and speakers.
From poetry and music, to the art of writing a memoir or what it takes to be a good translator, attendees enjoyed a multifaceted and dynamic selection of topics. Some of the authors invited included names such as Sigrid Nunez, Nathan Englander, Joyce Carol Oates and Alan Sepinwall.
I had the opportunity to listen to Nathan Englander’s comments on his latest novel, “Kaddish.com.” During a candid conversation with novelist Julie Orringer, Englander talked about how his Jewish upbringing has shaped and influenced most of his body of work. In his new book, about a man who after his father dies, turns to the website kaddish.com for help reciting the Jewish prayer for the dead, the author explores the meaning of faith in the modern world and how we mix technology and religion. “A novel can be a place to reflect, to ask questions about our values,” he explained. Englander’s sharp sense of humor, his quick remarks and frontal honesty gave the audience a rare look inside the mind of this celebrated Pulitzer finalist.
In sharp contrast but equally as fascinating, Joyce Carol Oates smooth voice trapped the audience’s attention with her remarks about his novel “Hazards of Time Travel.” In an intimate conversation with author Jonathan Santlofer, Oates talked about the type of stories that attract her and how she works on her ideas. “I write about stories that have a deeper significance”, she said. Oates, who published her first novel in 1962 and has published over 40 novels since, admitted that there is no “right” way to write. It can be an idea or just an emotion what drives an author to write a story. “They are all genuine ways of writing,” she concluded.