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MIT student blogger Yuliya K. '18

Boston Book Festival by Yuliya K. '18

#3 of 3 Boston Adventures

Boston Adventure #1 at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair here.

Boston Adventure #2 at the Institute of Contemporary Art here.


Last fall, my friend and I went to the Boston Book Festival (BBF) in Copley Square.


(from Wikimedia)

All over the magnificent square, vendors offered literary treasures under white tents. In the nearby churches and the Boston Public Library, authors gave talks and led storytimes.

My friend and I got stickers and bookmarks, smiles and hellos. We got free sci fi hardbacks with pleasantly smooth covers, free tickets to the fancy Boston Antiquarian Book Fair, and flyers for future Boston adventures.

Then we headed to the Church of the Covenant for a Fiction Keynote. One of my favorite authors, Colum McCann, had come to Boston to speak about his latest book, Thirteen Ways of Looking. Another best-selling author, Claire Messud, came to lead the Keynote. Messud is famous for her New York Times-bestselling The Emperor’s Children and the recently published and critically acclaimed The Woman Upstairs. I was beyond extremely incredibly thrilled to see the two authors!

I purchased Colum McCann’s new Thirteen Ways of Looking on-site with a sense of magical excitement. The author himself would sign it!


The Church pews filled quickly with other McCann fans, who, like me, clutched McCann’s books and marveled at the Church’s magnificent interior. Light percolated through the stained glass windows. Sculpted female heads adorned the ends of the decorative spires. Over the altar, a chandelier illuminated the people and the wooden ornaments, and the golden altar itself. I leaned in to see beyond the thick column ahead. The clock struck four.

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(from Wikimedia)

Colum McCann sat on a high chair in the light. He wore a shirt, sleeves pulled up, with a long scarf artistically draped over the buttons. He spoke calmly with a soft Irish accent. Read a passage from his book.

I concentrated, reviewing the sounds and images in my mind so that I could preserve the memories longer. Beyond the solid wooden pews was the man behind my favorite books. His work could make me cry at a happy ending, fall in love with a priest, and be inspired to write more of my own work. McCann’s books contained sentences of one word and sentences of 40 pages. In them, prostitutes, priests, and grieving parents coexisted, each person’s story not more valuable than the other. Every character real.

After the reading, Colum McCann and Claire Messud discussed the new novel. My favorite author spoke in the same manner that he wrote. I wondered how many more stories could be born if someone transcribed his responses. What a wonderful skill it is to speak like a beautiful novel!

After the discussion, the crowd shifted into a line along the long church wall, extending past the pews and overflowing into the next aisle. I hugged the book, smiling at my friend, running through the Keynote in my mind again and again.

We approached the author. I passed Thirteen Ways of Looking and the Boston Book Festival brochure to him for a signature. I felt small in his presence with my BBF Paper Crown that said, “Azaz, Ruler of Worlds” (from The Phantom Tolbooth), and a grey Walmart jacket. I was awed, thinking that I really should have dressed up for the occasion, should’ve brought more books for a signature.

Then, cue the best moment of the day: the author with his artistic scarf, me with my children’s literature crown. Claire Messud says something about my red hair. I smile. Colum McCann signs my book with the note “For Yuliya.” It’s beautiful.

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With a precious signature in the book at last, my friend and I grabbed free cookies and exited the church into a bright autumn day.

The Boston Book Festival was kind of unbelievable. I feel the magic still.


Bonus: what we saw on our way back through Boston.