10 events worth bookmarking at Decatur Book Festival

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10 events worth bookmarking at Decatur Book Festival

EVENT PREVIEW

AJC Decatur Book Festival

Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Free. Downtown Decatur. www.decaturbookfestival.com.

NEXT WEEK

Coming Aug. 30 in Go Guide: Your guide to Decatur Book Festival children’s programming.

With more than 300 authors appearing on 18 stages, 17 topic tracks ranging from arts to sports, two children’s parades and a stronger performing arts presence, the 2013 AJC Decatur Book Festival will bring a mind-boggling number of choices to the Decatur Square over Labor Day weekend.

On the bright side, there is something to engage just about anyone at this literary horn of plenty. More likely, the 85,000 people expected will find many somethings to enjoy. But the downside is, like perusing the aisles of a big-box store, the numerous AJC DBF options can, if allowed, cause a brain cramp.

Don’t stress, we are here to help. With assistance from new AJC DBF program director Philip Rafshoon, the AJC has winnowed the countless choices down to a workable 10. Consider this a conversation starter, and look for many more possibilities specific to your interests in the annual tabloid guide to the AJC DBF tucked into this Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wrapping around it will be a special section focusing on the fest’s new performing/visual arts component, Art AJC DBF.

1. Tickets to the Aug. 30 keynote address by U.S. Rep. John Lewis at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts were snapped up in a nanosecond. But the civil rights leader will sign his graphic novel “March: Book One” (the first in a three-part series co-authored with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell) from 1 to 2 p.m. Aug. 31 at the AJC Pavilion on East Ponce de Leon Avenue near Clairmont Avenue. Copies will be available for purchase.

2. We were aware of the entertainment possibilities and off-key notes of karaoke, but who knew its healing powers?

Rob Sheffield does. The Rolling Stone columnist and author of “Love Is a Mix Tape: Love and Loss, One Song at a Time” recounts in “Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke” how belting hit songs badly salved the sorrows of his first wife’s death and his subsequent move to Manhattan right before 9/11.

“A night of karaoke is just like Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses,’ except with twice as much Stevie Nicks and 70 percent more Lionel Richie,” Sheffield writes in the new book, which explores the entertainment form’s personal and global repercussions. He’ll discuss “Turn Around Bright Eyes” at 3:45 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Decatur Library Stage.

3. In January, Richard Blanco sounded a hopeful, open-armed note at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration as he read his poem written especially for the occasion, “One Today.”

The appearance thrust the poet — the first Latino, first gay person and youngest writer ever to serve in the role — into the national spotlight and made Rafshoon determined to bring him to Decatur.

Blanco will give two talks at the eighth fest. In “One Today,” at 11:15 a.m. Aug. 31 at the Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary Stage, he will read his most famous poem, excerpts from his new memoir, “For All of Us Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey,” and selections from his other books. He also will discuss “Poetry in the Public Life” at 1:15 p.m. Sept. 1, also at Decatur Presbyterian.

4. Brad Pitt’s partner will be at AJC DBF!

Calm down, not that one.

We’re talking about poet Jason Mott, whose debut novel, “The Returned,” was optioned by Pitt’s Plan B production company many months before it publishes on Aug. 27. An ABC series based on it, retitled “Resurrection” and starring Omar Epps (“House”), is expected to premiere early next year.

Mott’s “The Returned” dramatizes a worldwide event in which loved ones return from the dead, appearing as they were in real life, raising questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. He will appear at noon Sept. 1 at the Decatur Recreation Center gym.

5. The new Civil and Human Rights track, as one would expect around the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, is a potent one, including 13 events.

Especially notable among them is the appearance by Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy, appearing behind his book “For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law” at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at the First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary Stage.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in which it voted to sustain the use of race as a criterion in college admissions, “For Discrimination” is a timely consideration of the ever-divisive issue that is affirmative action.

6. Think of Art AJC DBF, which on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 will command the plaza above the Decatur MARTA station, the Community Bandstand and other close-by venues, as a free sampler platter of the Atlanta arts scene. The book festival always has included a smallish but worthy cultural component, but this year it’s sharing the spotlight (and some prime real estate) with more than 40 metro arts groups.

The Atlanta Opera is among the groups previewing fall performances, while other outfits, including the contemporary dance troupe Lucky Penny, are staging new works. Still others simply will be handing out information in the Atlanta PlanIt Pavilion, hoping to get on your fall dance card.

To keep the buzz going into the evening Aug. 31, the plaza will be overtaken by AJC DBF After Dark starting at 7 p.m., with pop-up performances by the Atlanta Opera, Serenbe Playhouse, 7 Stages, Staibdance and Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi, and a video installation by Micah and Whitney Stansell.

7. People have been waiting a long time to find out what happened to Appalachian newlyweds Julie and Hank Richards, protagonists of Robert Morgan’s “Gap Creek.” The novel, an Oprah Book Club selection, was an instant best-seller in 1999.

Finally, the wait is over with “The Road From Gap Creek,” which Morgan will read from at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary Stage. The new novel follows the Richardses and their four children as they experience life’s ups and downturns amid the Great Depression and World War II.

8. If the Braves’ drive to the National League playoffs and the prospect of the Falcons flying high this coming season have you pumped, a panel on sports and race might be your AJC DBF ticket.

An all-star quartet of authors will discuss their books during “Breaking the Color Line: Integration in Sports” at 1:15 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Decatur Recreation Center gym: Samuel G. Freedman (“Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights”), Randy Roberts (“Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, and Dixie’s Last Quarter”), Tom Dunkel (“Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line”) and Larry Colton (“Southern League: A True Story of Baseball, Civil Rights, and the Deep South’s Most Compelling Pennant Race”).

9. You might just plead guilty to crimes you didn’t commit while attending the talk “From Prosecution to Prose” at 3 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Decatur Recreation Center gym.

The participating lawyers-turned-novelists are that tough: Marcia Clark, the O.J. Simpson murder trial prosecutor and a crime novelist whose latest is “Killer Ambition”; and Allison Leotta, a former federal sex-crimes prosecutor who tapped her knowledge of monsters to pen “Speak of the Devil.”

10. Every AJC DBF brings new contenders grabbing for the brass ring of the Next Great Southern Novel. Some feel Wilton Barnhardt, director of the master of fine arts in creative writing program at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, has done just that with his latest.

“Lookaway, Lookaway” is a romp about an old-money Charlotte family that is unraveling and the new-money folks — bankers, real estate speculators, carpetbagging, social climbers — who won’t get out of the way.

Kirkus called it “witty, savage and bighearted all at once,” even anointing it “the Southern novel for the 21st century.”

Barnhardt talks up “Lookaway” at 3:45 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary Stage.

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