Jon Krakauer

Wordstock, Part One: Dodging raindrops on the Park Blocks

Neither rain nor long lines kept the latest incarnation of Wordstock from its delightful rounds


After a two-year break, Portland’s Wordstock book festival made its reappearance Saturday, now re-cast as a one-day-only event at the Portland Art Museum, under the umbrella of Literary Arts. Those who came equipped with rain gear, a tolerance for long lines, and a willingness to search for the small pop-up events scattered all over the museum couldn’t help being exposed to book talk at its best.

Editor’s note: In Part Two of our Wordstock coverage, Brian Kearney reports on Jesse Eisenberg, Simon Winchester, Mary Gaitskill, Claire Vaye Watkins and Kathleen Alcott, among others.

Sadly, not everyone got that chance. I’ve heard from two different friends who each took a look at the long line of people outside in the rain and turned around and went home. And yes, there were lines everywhere—to get admission wristbands; to get kids into and out of the children’s play area; to get into the big author panels; to buy books; to get books signed by authors; to get something from the food carts in the courtyard. Lines.

Yes, the rain fell on the lines at Wordstock./Angie Jabine

Yes, the rain fell on the lines at Wordstock./Angie Jabine

Speaking as a former book fair organizer (LitEruption, in the 1990s), I have to say: lines at events like this are inevitable. Some might argue that Wordstock’s previous locale, the Oregon Convention Center, was better laid out for crowd management, but there were always lines there, too. It’s the nature of the beast. If you’re going to be stuck waiting, well, at least you’re waiting at a BOOK FAIR, where you are surrounded by a bunch of other book-lovers who are probably even more introverted and agoraphobic than you are. And give me a Belluschi-designed art museum and a venerable old Masonic Temple (now the museum’s Mark Building) any day over the bland fluorescent box that is the Convention Center.

I was not quite awake when I eased into Saturday’s affair with “Kitchen Confidential,” a 10 am panel discussion featuring four local chefs who have written or co-written cookbooks. Cookbook author Liz Crain, as the moderator, grilled restaurateurs Elias Cairo of Olympia Provisions, Jenn Louis of Lincoln, and Adam and Jackie Sappington of Country Cat on the culinary highlights of their lives, whether in the Swiss Alps (Elias Cairo) or an Italian village (Jenn Louis). My main note comes from Jackie Sappington, who said of her husband and business partner, “Adam was a grandma in a past life.”

Promptly at 11 am, Andrew Proctor, the director of Literary Arts, welcomed the crowd inside the First United Congregational Church of Christ, across the Park Blocks from the museum, to what turned out to be one of the highlights of Saturday’s talks: an intimate chat between Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, and his good friend Barry Lopez, best known as the author of Arctic Dreams—a book that Krakauer said made him understand that a work of nonfiction can be a work of art.


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