This year's Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta has an impressively wide scope. From the literary prowess of Nicole Krauss to the un-kosher humor of Sam Hoffman, the festival organizers have packed in more than 40 authors over 15 days.
Sara Gruen, Wed., Nov. 10, noon
Reading group favorite Gruen continues her explorations of the relationship between animals and humans with Ape House (Spiegel & Grau), a novel that concerns a family of bonobo apes and the research center engaged in studying them. Animal liberation extremists attack the center, a journalist gets the story, and Gruen sketches an unflattering portrait of American popular culture.
Joseph Skibell, Thurs., Nov. 11, 10 a.m.
A Curable Romantic (Algonquin Books), the third novel from local author and Emory professor Skibell, shuttles back to 19th-century Austria for an intellectually grounded comic epic that spans five decades. In Vienna, Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn gets to know Sigmund Freud and later meets (and falls for) his famous patient, Emma Eckstein. The complications of romance drive the novel through historical crossroads and to linguistic heights.
Nicole Krauss, Thurs., Nov. 11, 6:30 p.m.
At the center of Krauss' second novel, Great House (W. W. Norton & Company), is a great desk, an enormous antique of mysterious provenance endowed with 19 drawers of varying size and shape. Across continents and generations, the lives of a Chilean poet, a New York novelist, and an Israeli antique dealer are subtly connected by the desk and Krauss' deft prose. Currently a finalist for the National Book Award, Krauss will find out if she's won one of literature's top honors just days after her reading at the fest.
Yann Martel, Thurs., Nov. 11, 8 p.m.
Martel created a best-selling sensation in 2003 with Life of Pi, his novel about a teenage boy stuck on a lifeboat with a tiger, zebra, orangutan and hyena. His follow-up, Beatrice and Virgil (Spiegel & Grau), is a metafictional novel that has a Martel-like narrator writing a Holocaust allegory with a donkey and a monkey as the main characters.
Pat Conroy, Sat., Nov. 13 at 8 p.m.
The Atlanta-born Conroy doesn't need much introduction. You probably already know whether or not you're a fan of his sweeping Southern melodramas such as The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. His latest memoir, My Reading Life (Nan A. Talese), turns the focus of his prose to acknowledge the books and instructors that shaped his work. Conroy's schoolteachers, Anna Karenina, Jay Gatsby, and other fictional and nonfictional characters all play a role.
Comedy Gold with Gregory Levey and Sam Hoffman, Thurs., Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
CL's comedy guru Noah Gardenswartz hosts a doubleheader of laughs with two new authors. Hoffman has turned his accurately titled video blog Old Jews Telling Jokes into a book of the same name (Villard). Levey makes light of the absurdly difficult Middle East peace process in How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months: Without Leaving Your Apartment (Free Press), his memoir examining his career as an Israeli speechwriter, an acquaintance with one of Yasser Arafat's former advisors, and a cast of characters that ranges from White House liaisons to opinionated grandmothers.
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