Arts Desk

The National Book Festival’s Supersize Lineup

This week the Library of Congress announced the names of many of the authors scheduled to appear at this year’s National Book Festival. As usual, it’s a high-wattage lineup that includes Jennifer Egan (whose A Visit From the Goon Squad has won a host of fiction awards in the past year), Toni Morrison, Dave Eggers, David McCullough, Terry McMillan, and Julianne Moore (who’s written three children’s books in her Freckleface Strawberry series).

Because the fest will double in length to two days (Sept. 24 and 25), organizers are expanding the range of authors. For the first time, the fest will add categories in urban fiction and graphic novels, though Library of Congress spokesperson Audrey Fischer says authors from the two genres will share one tent. The Pavilion of the States, which gathers up literacy advocates from the around the country, will hold court one day, while the Urban Fiction/Graphic Novel pavilion will use the same space on the other.

Whether that means we'll get to see Zane and Art Spiegelman share a stage is an open question—more details will be announced when the fest’s website goes live June 9, and none of the authors named so far are obvious fits in either of those genres. But it’s possible to make a few guesses at some of the other pavilions, based on the authors named so far.

The Civil War
New books about Abraham Lincoln are inescapable in any year, but the pace has accelerated in 2011, the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War. At least three scholars of the era will be on hand: Eric Foner (The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery), Adam Goodheart (1861: The Civil War Awakening), and James L. Swanson (Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse).

Red Meat for Tea Partiers
Among the many examples conservatives give to prove President Obama’s failure as a statesman is his handling of last spring’s BP oil spill, so you can ask Post reporter Joel Achenbach some pointed questions about his new book, A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher. If you’re conspiracy-minded enough to believe the president personally caused the spill in order to get credit for stopping it—and he has never explicitly denied doing this—stick around for thriller author Steve Berry, whose new novel, The Jefferson Key, involves hidden messages in the text of Constitution. At last year’s CPAC convention, Glenn Beck declared Teddy Roosevelt an enemy of American values; take it up with Edmund Morris, who’s on the second volume of his biography of the president. who completed his three-volume biography of the president last year.

People Who Are Smarter Than You
Joshua Foer will discuss—or perhaps recite—Moonwalking With Einstein, about how he cultivated a ridiculously good memory while participating in the U.S. Memory Championship. Longtime Post book critic Jonathan Yardley is promoting Second Reading, about returning to some of his favorite books. Neal Stephenson, who revels in dense, thinky novels about history and technology, is pushing Reamde, a thriller about a gaming entrepreneur. And Amy Chua will discuss her controversial book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she extols the virtues of no-nonsense, hypercompetitive parenting. During the Q&A period, go ahead and ask her why she didn’t get her own tent.

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  • John

    Thanks for the preview - great lineup. A minor correction: Edmund Morris has finished his three volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. The final book was released last year. Above, it mistakenly says that he is on the second volume.