Morristown has not had a book store for years. But for two days this fall, it will be the center of the publishing universe.
On Sept. 26-27, 2014, the first Morristown Festival of Books will feature talks by 18 authors in a variety of genres. William D. Cohan, author of The Price of Silence, an investigation of the Duke University lacrosse scandal, will deliver the keynote speech at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
Venues include the sanctuary at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the parish house at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, the Morristown & Township Library, the Mayo Center Starlight Room, and a book signing tent on the Vail Mansion lawn.
“Everybody who has been involved in this feels that books are still important in our lives,” said festival Chairperson Linda Hellstrom, a Mayo Center trustee from Morris Township who was inspired by last year’s Savannah Book Festival.
‘YOU CAN’T SIGN A TABLET’
The emphasis here won’t be pulp fiction. Just pulp. E-books will be scarce. This is not an event for Nook-worms, in other words.
“You can’t sign a tablet,” said Linda, who is unabashedly old-school when it comes to her reading M.O. “Tablets have their place. But I love going into a bookstore. That’s part of it, just browsing. It’s really joyful.”
Old-fashioned chatter will be part of the mix, too, in the form of question-and-answer sessions with the authors and an exercise dubbed One Community, One Book. Reading may be a solitary endeavor, but what’s the point if you can’t share the excitement and knowledge with others?
Along those lines, area book clubs, school groups, library patrons and the general public will be challenged to read and discuss the same book, by a festival author to be announced soon. Where Readers & Authors Meet is the festival motto.
Planning began quietly last spring. Organizers include staff members of Morris Arts, the Morris County Tourism Bureau and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, along with volunteers from First Night Morris and book-loving friends of Linda’s.
Maria Norton, director of the Morristown & Township Library, reached out to 30 librarians, by Linda’s count. Tom Williams, owner of the late, great Mendham Books, shared his insights. Mary Ann Donaghy of The Book Worm in Bernardsville will sell books at the festival.
FESTIVAL MISSION STATEMENT:
To celebrate the power of the written word to challenge, transport and transform us, while bringing together our community in conversation.
The Community Foundation of New Jersey is serving as sponsoring agency for the festival, which has not yet secured nonprofit status.
Linda said her committee is pursuing corporate and individual donations, toward a fund-raising goal of $50,000. So far, at least four book clubs have ponied up money to sponsor authors, and Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management has agreed to underwrite William Cohan’s appearance.
LITERARY STAR POWER
Landing a marquee name was deemed crucial for the festival’s success, and Linda feels her team has struck gold with this one.
Cohan, a contributor to Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, the New York Times and Bloomberg Business Week, among other publications, is the best-selling author of Money and Power, House of Cards and The Last Tycoons.
The Duke graduate’s new tome–the full title is The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, The Power of the Elite and the Corruption of Our Great Universities–is a 600-page examination of the sensational 2006 case in which three white lacrosse players ultimately were cleared of raping a black “exotic dancer.”
That case cost a district attorney his job and a day in jail–while reportedly costing Duke nearly $100 million in legal- and consulting fees.
Bryan Burrough, co-author of Barbarians at the Gate, has praised The Price of Silence as a “deep character study” that illuminates “the fierce pressures on America’s elite universities as they battle for power and prestige and money.” He will introduce Cohan and moderate the Friday evening keynote discussion.
Publisher’s Weekly describes Cohan’s book as “top-notch investigative journalism” that offers “edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama and a cautionary tale…about the power of status, talent, authority and belief.”
Other speakers will be named in coming weeks. The festival will showcase fiction and non-fiction, but no poetry. The Dodge Poetry Festival already covers that base, Linda said. Children’s literature, young adult novels and sports books are anticipated categories, she said.
Morristown should prove a popular destination come late September; the book festival weekend will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 28, with the 20th annual Morristown Festival on the Green, organized by the Morristown Partnership.
In fact, the Morris County seat has become a year-round destination.
The bookfest joins a roster of major Morristown events that includes First Night Morris County, the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade, Restaurant Week (April 28-May 4), July 4 festivities, our own MG Film Festival and the Mayor’s Jazz & Blues Festival every August, the Gran Fondo NJ cycling extravaganza and the month-long Christmas Festival at the Morristown Green.