Books

new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Book fest marks political climate; a cure for writer’s block

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file

Boston book fest

The ninth annual Boston Book Festival kicks off Thursday night with Lit Crawl, a series of lively and irreverent gatherings around the city featuring writers exploring different aspects of Boston’s literary scene. Consider sampling sessions with titles like “A Taste of Boston Food Writing,” “Improv Edgar Allan Poe,” “Trick or Trivia,’’ or perhaps “Literary Balderdash.’’

The theme of this year’s festival, taking place Saturday, Oct. 28 in and around Copley Square, is “Where We Find Ourselves,” responding to the particular political atmosphere the country faces, and the ways in which literature can help move us forward.

There’s an explicitly political bent to certain panels, including “Politics” with Maureen Dowd, Tom Ashbrook, and Jared Yates Sexton; “Geopolitics” with Meghan O’Sullivan, Graham Allison, and Nick Burns; and “Racism in America” with Carol Anderson, Chris Hayes, and James Forman Jr.

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Notions of place and movement are also addressed, with “Arrivals and Departures” with Adam Gopnik and Kristen Radtke and “Voices of America” with Ha Jin, Grace Talusan, and Ilan Stevens.

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The festival lures a number of local and national writers, too numerous to name here.

Tom Perrotta, Jacqueline Woodson, Claire Messud, M.T. Anderson are among the big names, as well as Laura van den Berg, Eileen Myles, Tochi Onyebuchi, Stephanie Burt, Melissa Febos, John Freeman, Jorie Graham, and many, many others. For the full schedule of the events, visit bostonbookfest.org.

Clearing the fog

Will Dowd needed something to help him work through a bad case of writer’s block. So the Weymouth resident, who studied writing at Boston College, MIT, and NYU, decided to keep a year-long weather journal. The result is his upcoming first book, a collection of short essays, “Areas of Fog’’ (Etruscan). Broken up by month, the pieces move from what’s happening in the sky to musings on Picasso, Andrew Wyeth, Melville, Dickinson, friendship, solitude. “Maybe that’s why we keep talking about it,” he writes, “for the simple pleasure of feeling our inner and outer worlds, however briefly and superficially, overlap.” The free launch event for the book takes place Oct. 24 at 7 pm at Boston College’s Gasson Hall, Room 305.

‘Black Lives’ anthology

“Black Lives Have Always Mattered’’ (2Leaf Press) is a stirring and powerful new anthology of essays, personal narratives, and poems that aims the spotlight at racial injustice and its impacts. Edited by Abiodun Oyewole, poet, musician, and teacher, the book gathers 79 writers and poets, and taken as a whole, makes an urgent case for equality and upending long-held assumptions. “How do I tell my son that he is not safe/ whenever he walks the streets and someone/ . . . curses his/ skin as he tries to explain how being/ black is not a threat,” asks Rasaq Malik in his poem “How Do I Tell My Son?” On Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Porter Square Books, contributors Lisa Braxton, J. Kates, Bettye Kearse, and Ellin Sarot will read, introduced by poet Charles Coe.

Coming out

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“The Emerald Circus” by Jane Yolen (Tachyon)

“Insomniac Dreams: Experiments with Time by Vladimir Nabokov”edited by Gennady Barabtarlo (Princeton)

“Miami Century Fox” by Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, translated from the Spanish by Eduardo Aparicio (Akashic)

Pick of the week

Travis Cohen at the Brookline Booksmith recommends “The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction’’ by Mark Lilla: “In this essay collection, Lilla takes political philosophy from the heights of its perceived ivory tower to examine the history of political reaction and nostalgia through the lens of three thinkers — Franz Rosenburg, Eric Voghelin, and Leo Strauss. Terrific theory on philosophy’s influence and application in culture, in society, and in private life.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.