Iowa City Book Festival brings authors, presses from across the country

Iowa City Book Festival

Downtown Iowa City — October 4 – 9

When a certified City of Literature decides to throw a book festival, it doesn’t fool around. The 2016 event, which started on Oct. 4 and runs through Oct. 9, is the stuff of dreams for bibliophiles of all stripes.

Photo by Kelli Ebensberger
Photo by Kelli Ebensberger

The festivities kicked off bright and early in the morning on Tuesday, Oct. 4 with the festival’s longest event: a public reading of the Dostoyevsky classic Crime and Punishment. Running 9 a.m.–9 p.m. on both Oct. 4 and Oct. 5, and finishing up on Thursday, Oct. 6 from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. (“or until finished”), the organizers encourage members of the public to sign up for 20-minute reading slots (email to see if there are any still available). The reading takes place at the east entrance of the Old Capitol Museum (but will move inside if construction noise or inclement weather insist).

It’s one of two events at the festival to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of that great Russian novel. On Thursday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m., Daniel Boscaljon, Anna Barker and Christopher Merrill present “Crime and Punishment at 150: Dostoevsky’s Notions of Criminality and Redemption for 21st Century.” The discussion will revolve around the novel’s origins, inspirations and influence, especially on current prison narratives.

Panels and readings — both group efforts, as described above, and the more traditional solo-author events, such as Rick Riordan’s sold-out Englert Theatre event — make up the core of the festival, but its true breadth is vastly more than that. Among the more unique offerings is The Man Who Planted Trees. Presented in partnership with Hancher Auditorium, this family-friendly play follows the wanderings of a man and his dog out to make a difference in the world. This ticketed event ($5–10 at is a production of the Puppet State Theatre Company of Scotland; remaining shows are Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m.

On Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m., the festival hosts a staged reading of the work in progress Iphigenia: Fragments from an Excavation (Old Capitol Senate Chambers). Directed by Nina Morrison and co-sponsored by the UI Center for Human Rights, the UI Theatre Arts Department and the UI MFA in Translation, the piece frames an adaptation of the Iphigenia plays of Euripides around a reaction to the modern-day refugee crisis. The multi-format performance (incorporating film, theatre and music) is a collaboration between filmmaker Irina Patkanian and writer Lisa Schlesinger.

A key event of the festival is the presentation of the Paul Engle prize, which will occur on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Coralville Public Library. This year’s recipient is Roxane Gay, author of the short story collection Ayiti, the novel An Untamed State and the essay collection Bad Feminist. Gay is the fifth recipient of the prize.

A full event schedule for the festival is available on the Iowa City Book Festival website.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 207.

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