On Saturday, November 5, the South Park Blocks will turn into a bookworm paradise again: after two years of pandemic era all virtual and hybrid iterations, literary arts Portland Book Festivalval will return in its classic, ultra-packed, one-day format. Names big and small, local and international, whose work spans graphic novels, adult fiction, poetry and memoir, will descend on downtown Portland to be interviewed, host panels, give readings, and more. Again. First of all this starts, there is also a full week of liquidation events and a book fair to start.
With celebrities such as Selma Blair and George Saunders on the record, as well as local heavyweights from Chuck Klosterman to Renée Watson, it can all get a little dizzying. So we’ve digested the festival’s sprawling schedule to offer you a hand-picked itinerary for maximum book festival enjoyment. Believe us, though: you really can’t go wrong.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
8 p.m. Fri, Nov 4, Village Ballroom
Ancient PoMo style editor Eden Dawn, who wrote the Portland Book of Dates in 2021, revives a storytelling event she and her husband-slash-co-author originally created for the book launch. With support from Portland’s long-running storytelling event BackFence, the date book The team will be joined by BurnCycle founder Jessi Duley, content creator Candace Molatore, NPR host Aaron Scott and actor/storyteller Vin Shambry to share stories of past dating accidents.
George Saunders and Jess Walter
10:00 a.m. First Congress United Church of Christ
George Saunders is widely recognized as one of, if not the, preeminent short story writer working in America today. His book 2021 Swimming in a pond in the rain is literally a masterclass on the subject — it breaks down Russian heavyweight masters Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol, giving readers a taste of a course Saunders teaches at Syracuse University. The day of liberation is the latest example of Saunders putting his teachings to work, his first collection since 2013 ten december—a National Book Award finalist. The day of liberation includes nine stories in which Saunders explores moral conundrums in his high-pitched, self-aware, middle-aged fatherly type. Saunders will read from The day of liberation and chat with Geoff Norcross, OPB Host morning edition, alongside Jess Walter, whose new collection is called The Angel of Rome.
Intimate Apocalypse: CJ Evans and Saeed Jones
Noon, Brunish Theater
The poets CJ Evans and Saeed Jones, in the wake of their new collections Lives and Living at the end of the world, will join Erika Stevens of Literary Arts to discuss the undercurrents of grief and apocalyptic anxiety that run through both works. “The end of the world, now what? is a pretty popular question right now – for obvious reasons – and what medium other than poetry might be better suited to unpacking the implications?
Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman and Tashon Phoenix
2 p.m., Portland Museum of Art
Literary Arts’ Incite series, featuring queer writers, will place journalist Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman and spoken word artist Tashon Phoenix in front of works by Northwestern artist Ka’ila Farrell-Smith on the third floor of PAM for a pop-up mid-afternoon reading. Take a break from meatier panels and hour-long interviews to absorb some paint, get a quick 20 minutes of unfiltered reading in your blood, then head back into the renewed festival.
Melissa Fabos and Hua Hsu
3:15 p.m., Winningstad Theater
New Yorker staff member and The New Memoirs of Professor Bard Hua Hsu stay true chronicles the unlikely friendship between Hsu – a zine-writer, Nirvana-before-they-made-it-the-big-fan – and Ken, who wore Abercrombie and listened to Dave Matthews. The two bonded over their struggle to fit into ’90s American pop culture as Asian American kids, and then Ken was murdered in a carjacking when they were both college students. 20 years in Berkeley. Hsu, now 45, says he’s been working on the book ever since. He will read from stay true and chat with OPB’s Jen Chávez alongside Melissa Febos, whose new book, Youth, combines memoir, scholarship and original reporting to investigate the core myths about becoming and then being a woman that she internalized in her youth. The New York Times said, when he came out, that Youth “put [Febos] in a feminist canon that includes… the theoretical masterpieces of Adrienne Rich and Maggie Nelson: Smart and Radical Enterprise.
5 p.m., First Congregational Church of Christ
Consider ending the day with Kwame Alexander, the children’s author whose basketball story was written in verse in 2014 Crossing won both a Newberry Medal and a Coretta Scott King Award. He will appear in Portland chatting with OPB’s Dave Miller for an episode of think out loud discuss his latest novel, The door of no return. The first of a planned trilogy, Gate centers on an 11-year-old Ghanaian boy caught up in the slave trade in the late 19th century.