By Kimberly Uslin
Elm Staff Writer
This past weekend, Chestertown hosted its third annual Book Festival.
John Barth, a postmodernist/metafiction author, kicked off the festival in the Hynson Lounge Friday evening with a reading from his new novel. Barth was introduced by former Washington College professor and Lit House founder Robert Day, who entertained the sizable audience with tales of his friendship with Barth and elaborated upon his friend’s many accomplishments.
National Book Award winner John Barth is truly a major figure in contemporary literature, having been nominated several times for the award before receiving it in 1973 for his novel “Chimera.”
He also received the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Fiction in 1997. At the Book Festival event, Barth read from his new book, “Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons,” which chronicles the life of protagonist George I. Newett after he takes a fall on his birthday.
Barth’s spirited reading of excerpts from the novel exhibited both wit and poignancy, peppered with relatable references to life on the Eastern shore.
The reading was followed by a reception and book signing, where literature lovers could talk with Barth and purchase his unreleased-to-the-public novel.
On Saturday, the Book Festival continued at the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre downtown from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This was the first year that the festival had taken place in one venue, having previously been held in various stores and restaurants around Chestertown.
According to Chestertown Book Festival Committee Co-Chairman Gerry Cataldo, the change was a good thing.
“There has been nothing but positive feedback from those who have attended, as all the authors are here [in one place],” he said.
In the theatre, many authors were sitting at tables, available to discuss their respective works with the festival-goers. One such writer was Mimi Shapiro, a mixed-media poet and artist. Shapiro shared her experience at the Chestertown Book Festival.
“It’s been excellent. I’ve talked to a lot of interesting people and many people have been interested in my work,” she said.
Shapiro’s work is very interesting indeed, as she creates collages from old children’s books and uses them to tell an entirely new story through words and pictures.
Art and poetry were not the only genres presented at the Book Festival, which offered everything from WWII and Baltimore Police Department memoirs to “Sweetheart’s Gift: A Healing Chincoteague Pony Story” and children’s art. These diverse genres were represented in the readings that took place at the Festival, featuring authors and poets such as Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll, David Healey, and the C.V. Starr Center’s Patrick Henry Fellowship winner Peter Manseau.
Overall, Festival Co-Chairman Cataldo was very pleased with the success of the Book Festival.
“We think it’s been wonderful,” he said. “It has exceeded all expectations. Of course, we always want there to be three times as many people than we get, but it’s growing.”
This year’s experience seems to promise continuing success for the festival.
“We’re hoping to drop the number from ‘third annual’ and just say ‘annual,’” Cataldo said. “We’ve had authors ask when the festival will be next year, and we don’t know, but we like that question. It’s an optimistic question.”