History buffs, fiction fanatics and those itching to learn the secret history of church ladies will get more than their fill this August during a weekend of events with world-class writers, journalists and thinkers at the return of the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival Summer Series.
The series will bring 20 authors to the Island from August 5 through August 8 to discuss culture, politics, and of course their latest works.
The biennial book festival has been adapted this year to a four-day ticketed event to ensure that the live audience does not exceed capacity limits at its two locations, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and the Chilmark Community Center, said Suellen Lazarus, founder and director of the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival.
All events will also be available to stream at no cost for those tuning in at home. Additionally, video of the events will be posted later on mvbookfestival.com.
Those who wish to attend the live events will be able to purchase weekend-long and day passes, as well as limited single-event tickets. Ticket-holders will receive authors’ books as part of the ticket price, since the festival is unable to accommodate a book tent this year because of Covid restrictions, she said.
All-inclusive sponsorship tickets are currently available for purchase on the book festival website at mvbookfestival.com, and day passes will be available in the coming weeks.
Festival is August 5 through August 8.
— Jeanna Shepard
Ms. Lazarus said she was thrilled to bring a book series back to the Island this summer.
“It’s a little bit of a miracle that it’s happening,” she said in an interview this week. “We felt that it was really important for people to have a time for reflection. It’s been a lot of waiting this year.”
The series opens Thursday evening, August 5 with a sit-down between psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and author and journalist Walter Isaacson. Mr. Kahneman will discuss his latest book, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, while Mr. Isaacson will draw on this recent release, Code Breaker.
The evening conversation will be held at the grounds of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and will be followed by a reception on the museum lawn overlooking Lagoon Pond.
On Friday, programming will kick off bright and early for full day of panels taking on a range of topics including race, climate change, feminism and modern day politics.
Ms. Lazarus said lineups for the panels are not yet final but she expected to run a discussion on climate change with chef and former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert and British author Simon Winchester. Another panel focused on race will bring political commentator Heather McGhee, professor Patricia Sullivan and civil rights lawyer Armand Derfner together in a discussion moderated by former law professor Barbara Philips.
Friday evening an event honoring the Vineyard Gazette’s 175th anniversary, a partner in the series, will focus on the future of journalism, with participation from Andrew Marantz of the New Yorker and Cecilia Kang of the New
York Times. A reception will follow.
“I’m excited about all of them,” said Ms. Lazarus of the lineup. “We always start with themes about the issues we want to cover, so the state of politics, technology, climate change, gender, race.”
On Saturday and Sunday the series will migrate up-Island to its traditional venue at the Chilmark Community Center for two days of book readings and author talks. The weekend series will be headlined on Saturday by Mr. Isaacson, with moderation by professor and chemist Holden Thorpe, and on Sunday Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who recently released Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power about the antitrust movement.
Other author talks will include a discussion with Elizabeth Kolbert on her new book Under a White Sky, moderated by environmental lawyer Brad Campbell. Pulitzer Prize winner Louis Menand will speak about The Free World, his cultural history of the American postwar era.
A speed-dating style group event with fiction writers will feature Torrey Peters on her book Detransition, Baby, Deesha Philyaw on her collection of short stories, The Secret Lives of the Church Ladies, and Brandon Taylor on his collection, Filthy Animals.
As with past years, Ms. Lazarus said she selected authors — and stories — that reflected the issues of the day. This year in particular, conversations will pick up where the organization’s Author Series left off last summer, Ms. Lazarus said.
“In part, it’s reflecting what the community is interested in and in part it’s building on past conversations,” she said. “[It’s about] the concerns, the issues about the future that we’re facing, after this year of sitting quietly at home and not feeling like we were able to do much or make much progress.”
Event attendance will be limited by tickets in accordance with Covid guidelines, with a maximum capacity of 250 in-person participants at the museum events and a 400-person cap at the Community Center.
Keeping things lively, Ms. Lazarus said some tickets will include boxed lunches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with fare from Art Cliff Diner, Menemsha Deli and Scottish Bakehouse respectively.
Copies of the relevant books will also be bundled into all ticket purchases, thanks to Bunch of Grapes bookstore, a partner of the series, Ms. Lazarus said, noting the absence of the usual book sale and signing tents from the series due to Covid restrictions. Pre-signed books will also be available.
Masks will be encouraged for those who are not vaccinated, Ms. Lazarus said.
With a pile of books to pore over before August, Ms. Lazarus was both busy and excited to once again bring the festival to the Island community this year.
“People are just happy to be able to be together again,” she said. “It’s a really nice lineup. I’m delighted that we can do it.”
Sponsorship tickets are available immediately for the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival Summer Series at mvbookfestival.com. Additional tickets will become available soon.