Planning your reading schedule for this year? Even if you’re not that organized, one text you’ll want to keep in mind this year is Jill Lepore’s “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” because it is this year’s featured book at The Buffalo Humanities Festival.
Held at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery on Elmwood Avenue, the Festival consists of a plethora of events centered around a different theme each year. Guest speakers such as authors, professors, and more introduce films, books, and will lead discussions about this years’ topic: Gender Bender. On Friday, September 25-26, Jill Lepore will talk about her featured work, along with several other presenters that will question the way society looks at gender.
Not completely sold on the idea? We can’t be sure how this event will turn out, but last year’s keynote speaker gave nothing but a positive performance.
The first annual Buffalo Humanities Festival began strong on Friday, September 26, 2014 with comedic but valuable insight from author Gary Shteyngart and his newest release, Little Failure. In line with the festival’s theme of migration, Shteyngart spoke with great reverence and a little self-deprecation about his childhood, during which he moved with his mother and father from the Soviet Union to New York City in 1979.
As if scoring a place on the NY Times Bestseller list with his two previous novels wasn’t enough, Shteyngart once again won the title with the new memoir. Little Failure packs a walloping punch with constant humor versus heartfelt depth, focusing on Shteyngart’s beginnings as a writer and the disappointment of his parents for going to school for something like “creative writing.” Complete with family photographs at the beginning of each chapter, his book will give you tears as you read about the good, the bad, and most of all, the truth.
Hosted at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the space was small but cozy with a room dedicated to VIP guests who could gather and enjoy drinks and appetizers with the author before the show began at 8pm. Upstairs, over half the room was filled with professors, college students, avid readers and fans of Shteyngart, and many individuals who were simply curious about the event.
After a warm introduction from the organizers of the Humanities Festival, Shteyngart came onstage winning over the sympathy of the audience by describing his perilous flight in typical Buffalo weather to arrive at the venue. He then introduced himself by sharing what encouraged him to start writing: cheese sandwiches. With one after each chapter and his grandmother’s encouragement, he quickly found the appeal of creating stories at age 5, and it has only grown since then.
The author gave his reading 100% and had the audience roaring as he accompanied his ridiculous childhood tales with exaggerated hand gestures and audible impersonations. It was very difficult not to find him charming and his Q&A first with a representative and then with the audience sealed the deal as he answered each question very personally.
To end the night, Shteyngart signed copies of his memoir sold by Talking Leaves Books, a local independent bookstore.
With authors as promising Shteyngart, the Buffalo Humanities Festival is looking at a bright future for not only 2015 but many years to come.