*The Book Festival of Belfast

This village of fewer than 6800 people put on a 3-day book festival that rivals anything I’ve ever seen.

There were 60 author events and booksignings.  The ones I chose to attend were far afield from the topics in my personal library.

The Art and History of the Banjo by Scott Odell.

Suddenly, the Cider Didn’t Taste so Good by John Ford anecdotes from his career as a game warden in Maine.

A Tea Reader:  Living Life One Cup at a Time by  Katrina Munichiello included a sampling of tea varieties.

Three books by Kate Braestrup about her experiences as a chaplain in the Maine Warden Service.  She is currently negotiating a TV series based on a character she inspired.

Fourteen readings of 15 minutes or less.  These were delivered outside at one of Belfast’s benches (https://allevenson.wordpress.com/the-benches-of-belfast/). These included:

Molly Bloom’s soliloquy that closes Joyce’s Ulysses.

Mark Twain’s “New England Weather”—a speech delivered at the New England Society’s 71st annual dinner in New York City, Dec 22, 1876

Excerpts from Thomas Jefferson’s “Head and Heart Letter”, composed for a young women he was in love with, in which Jefferson’s head argues with his heart.


At one guerilla reading, a woman walked into a bookstore and asked if she could do a random reading.  Given permission, she recited the opening paragraphs of a Tale of Two Cities.  (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . . .”)  And left.

Three years ago Belfast supported five bookstores.  Since then one closed, three new one have opened.  Granted, the bookstores of Belfast serve an arc of Maine’s coast with a radius of 30 miles.  It occurs to me an equal area around San Francisco has 1000 times as many people, and I am unable to name seven bookstores there.

Belfast is now officially outed as the most literate acre in the country.

8 Responses to *The Book Festival of Belfast

  1. Colleen Rae says:

    That sounds like a fascinating way to spend three days. In the photo re the Art and History of the Banjo, a lovely 3-string dulcimer is in the foreground. I still have mine that was made in 1960 by a maker in Kentucky, whom I watched make it. Correct me if I’m wrong, Al, or anyone, but isn’t the banjo and the mountain dulcimer the only two original instruments birthed in the United States? Of course they both had anchestors from the European continent.

  2. David L says:

    You’re not saying San Franciso is home to over six-million people. Maybe the entire Bay Area. I know, you point is well taken. Shows to go where the literatti are and they aren’t on the west coast.

  3. Dave Bauer says:

    Seems to me that unlike the high tech culture of San Francisco, the culture in rural Maine may be more high touch. Thus, people in Maine may be more inclined to gather together in the corner book shops than in the Internet cafes. Perhaps the cold Maine winters are more conducive to curling up with a book beside a warm fireplace than are the winters in California.

    On the other hand, there are two wonderful book shops in small Orinda, CA, which is a bedroom community for San Francisco. One is called The Orinda Bookstore and the other Canetti’s Bookshop. Both have a fireplace.

  4. Colleen Rae says:

    Book Passage in Corte Madera is still an indie book store; one of the more successful ones. When I lived there (circa 1996 – 2005) I had to get on a waiting list to schedule a book reading.

  5. I don’t often defend anything on the West Coast, must come to its defense, at least to the northern part of it, Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia, where the infamous continual drizzle must make readers out of many who would prefer to be in the outdoors. During a recent trip to the Pac NW, we began by being impressed with a concentration of three of the best small bookstores we’ve ever seen in Port Angeles, WA and ended in the biggest I’ve seen on this continent, Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR. The per-capita champ, however, may be Sidney, BC, a small town north of Victoria on Vancouver Island that had a one mile street with 16 (yes SIXTEEN) new and used bookstores.

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