It’s always like this, a bit like summer, which promises more than it delivers. So, too, with festivals which get me all excited about the idea of a whole day devoted to one thing–food, art, foot massage, politics. So, too, with the Boston Book Festival, which is, really, a terrific event, right there in Copley Square. All the local art-literature organizations are present with their wares, full of smiles and enthusiasm, and good cheer, all of them, from ArtsEmerson to WBUR.
But for some reason, the minute I see it all like that, in one big place, each kiosk next to the other like an old supermarket, the minute I see it all like that, I feel lost. All my enthusiasm dissipates; I want to run away or sit on some bench, and talk to the birds eating the crumbs on the bench next to mine.
The birds and I–it’s a good time, but they soon fly away, having picked at all the crumbs. So, here I am again, staring at the sky, thinking about the storm that’s coming tomorrow night, doing nothing redeeming or literary. I can’t find my friends Kate and Paul and the lecture by Richard Ford is at six. He’d better be good, otherwise all this afternoon was for naught.
I am hungry, too. But, really, I am here for literary nourishment; I shouldn’t walk away. But I do, heading in the direction of the BPL’s main entrance. And then the thought strikes me to go to the Maproom Café, buy something small and tasty, and head out to the courtyard, and sit there, with my book and my nourishment.
It is a lovely wait, in the courtyard, with a real book, and solid, unpretentious food. The scenery in front of me is ravishing; the air crisp with a hint of anticipation for the calamity which is to befall us tomorrow evening. I read, then look up and out, and then read some more, the taste of coffee strong and bitter.
It’s close to five, and a library employee is going round, telling us all to clear the area; they’re going to close. All of us take our time, wait around some more until two minutes before five, wait around this beauty, this secret hideout in the middle of our city, this place which I love very much.
We’re driven out, finally, and as walk out of the BPL gates, I see my friends in the distance. We kiss and hug and chat and laugh and laugh some more. Then we head to Richard Ford’s lecture at the Old South Church across the street. The line is long, we wait, and talk.
The church is packed and full of anticipation. Richard Ford had better be very good, otherwise, where is the love of literature in this entire afternoon?
He is very, very good–eloquent and warm, soulful and modest, and witty. Ah, the ways of the book, the lovely digressions which take us back to the word about which Richard Ford speaks:the love of the word, the love of language.