Anyone who cares about reading and books had to be heartened by the lines that wound round and round and up and out. Yes, there were hundreds of people turned away from a bunch of sessions at the Boston Book Festival on Saturday, but the mood was downright ebullient.
I made it to three sessions, each of which was excellent. David Pogue, technology columnist for The New York Times, took a swipe at The Boston Globe in his introduction to "The Future of Reading" and I would like to have seen him engage two major adversaries (Jon Orwant of Google Books and Brewster Kahle of the nonprofit Internet Archive) in a discussion rather than inviting each to speak without any exchange between them. That said, I was glad that Pogue's guests included not only the two-ton gorillas like Google and Sony but upstarts like the U.K.-based maker of the Cool-er e-reader and Pixel Qi, working to build a more reader-friendly computer screen.
Tom Ashbook was animated and engaging as he teased out a not-so-favorable report card on Obama's first year from his panel of guests. They spanned the political spectrum from Lani Guinier and Jack Beatty to Michael Porter, a Republican and Harvard Business School professor, with David Gergen somewhere in between.
The festival ended in the Old South Church with Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk reading from his new novel, "The Museum of Innocence" (Knopf), and talking about his books, the mysteries of love, and his life. On stage with Christopher Lydon, Pamuk roundly rebuffed Lydon's analysis of Pamuk's work as major explorations of East verus West. Pamuk, who grew up in Istanbul, was at his most endearing when he mentioned what he told his daughter, now a student at Columbia: The books we read accompany us all through life. Choose wisely. (Me, I'm heading back into Pamuk's "Museum." It is a tale of erotic obsession told in moving and lovely ways.)