Festival Days


By Jo Ann Beard

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A searing and exhilarating new collection from the award-winning author of The Boys of My Youth and In Zanesville,who “honors the beautiful, the sacred, and the comic in life” (Sigrid Nunez, National Book Award winner for The Friend).

A New York Times Notable Book
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A Boston Globe and LitHub Best Book of the Year

When “The Fourth State of Matter,” her now famous piece about a workplace massacre at the University of Iowa was published in The New Yorker, Jo Ann Beard immediately became one of the most influential writers in America, forging a path for a new generation of young authors willing to combine the dexterity of fiction with the rigors of memory and reportage, and in the process extending the range of possibility for the essay form.
Now, with Festival Days, Beard brings us the culmination of her groundbreaking work. In these nine pieces, she captures both the small, luminous moments of daily existence and those instants when life and death hang in the balance, ranging from the death of a beloved dog to a relentlessly readable account of a New York artist trapped inside a burning building, as well as two triumphant, celebrated pieces of short fiction.
Here is an unforgettable collection destined to be embraced and debated by readers and writers, teachers and students. Anchored by the title piece––a searing journey through India that brings into focus questions of mortality and love—Festival Days presents Beard at the height of her powers, using her flawless prose to reveal all that is tender and timeless beneath the way we live now.


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Author’s Note

I became an essayist by default. My first love was poetry, my second love was fiction, and my third and lasting love was the essay. It’s like a third marriage—you know that this is where you’re staying, where you’re going to work out your issues, for better or for worse. And yet, because we’re all only human, this very book has a couple of stories in it—“The Tomb of Wrestling” and “What You Seek Is Seeking You”—or anyway they were first published as stories. They are also essays, in their own secret ways, and the essays are also stories.

Several of the pieces here were published first by Tin House, and I am grateful to Cheston Knapp and the other Tin House folk, for their willingness to publish my efforts without undue fretting over genre. The Tin House magazine will be missed by me and by others, for just this quality of openness and flexibility.

My gratitude to Cheri Tremble’s loved ones, for their willingness to tell me Cheri’s story, and then to allow me the privilege of imagining my way into her final moments. Werner Hoeflich, similarly, shared his story with me in great precise and painterly detail, and then stepped back and let me imagine it for myself on the page. Thank you to these collaborators and friends.

One of these days

I’ll look at your face and find

The sad detailed imprints

Of the festival days

—Nand Chaturvedi, “The Cruel Festival Time,”
translated by Katherine Russell Rich and
Vidhu Shekhar Chaturvedi

Last Night

Something happened to her while she was eating, or right afterward. She began turning in circles and couldn’t stop. In my kitchen, in my car, and then in an examining room at the vet’s office. I sat on the floor with her while the vet stood leaning against the wall, watching us. I was crying, but he ignored that.

“You indicated once,” he said, looking through the file, “that we should let you know when it might be time.”

It wasn’t time.

“It looks like a brain abnormality, something that’s grown or shifted. We might wait a day or so to see what happens. But if this doesn’t stop…” He paused.

“Sheba, stop,” I said, and held her. She looked like Lady from Lady and the Tramp, only old; she was fifteen.

It was like putting your hand on a spinning top, but as soon as I let go, she began turning again. We used to call her Top Dog because she liked to sleep stretched out on our old black Lab, her head settled on his head, both of their eyes closed. Once, many years ago, the Lab had gotten carefully to his feet, made his way to the kitchen where my husband was cooking, and accepted a treat, all without disturbing the sleeping puppy draped over his neck. The Lab lived to be fifteen too. The marriage, fourteen.

I took my hands away to button my jacket, and she turned blindly for a moment on the gleaming linoleum, then bumped into the single leg of the examining table.

“It might be time,” the vet said, putting his foot out to stop her. Except for those neon running shoes, he was completely nondescript, like an actor you aren’t sure why is in the movie until the very end, when he turns out to be the killer.

At home, it didn’t get any better or any worse, Sheba following herself, nose to tail, around and around in a circle while I tried to keep her steady. My neighbor came over for a few minutes and watched, her eyes round and nervous. “This doesn’t look hopeful,” the neighbor finally said.

It was dark by then, and I was kneeling on my living-room floor in the lamplight, holding her and then letting her turn, holding her and then letting her turn. It was winter, but the neighbor was wearing flip-flops.

“Aren’t your feet cold?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said, and went home.


We were used to being alone. Our house was small and dark, set into a hillside, but we had a stone fireplace and built-in bookshelves and a screened porch overlooking a blue lake, our own dock, and certain seabirds that didn’t seem like they belonged there, so we chased them away each morning, or, rather, one of us did while the other stood on a giant ornate piece of driftwood and drank coffee in her sunglasses, even though nobody needed sunglasses in Ithaca.

We had brought more or less nothing from our previous life—a few pictures, some ceramic bowls, a Turkish rug that we hardly noticed in our old, big Iowa house but that became, in the new house, a focal point, the last remnant of what used to be. Sheba began urinating on it sometime around midnight, a series of dark rings overlapping and intersecting one another. By one o’clock it was my turn to pee, and I ran to the bathroom and came back to find her spun into a corner and stuck there, bumping against the baseboard.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre.

“Sheba,” I said.

The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

“Sheba,” I said, holding her face in my hands. She looked back blindly and I saw suddenly that the vet was right, something had grown or shifted, blocking her in there all alone.

I’d always known I’d have to live without her someday; I just hadn’t known it would be tomorrow. Things fall apart. Here in the safe silence of Ithaca, I had forgotten that.

So we stayed awake all of her last night, waiting for the vet’s office to open, in the living room on the Turkish rug, in the kitchen next to her food bowl, and finally on the bed pushed into the corner, my body between her and the edge. At some point I couldn’t help it and let my eyes close, and when I did, it felt like I was turning, too, our lives unraveling like a skein of yarn stretched from Ithaca back to Iowa. I see my husband patting his chest and holding out his arms, Sheba jumping into them. I see the Lab wearing her like a bonnet on his head. I see her running under the seabirds as they fly along the shore. Don’t leave yet, I say to my husband, who leaves. “Don’t leave yet,” I say aloud in the darkness of the bedroom.

She used to sleep at the foot of the bed, and at first light, first twitch, she would crawl sleepily up to my pillow so that when I opened my eyes she was what I saw. The aging dog-actress face—still the dark eyes, still the long glamorous ears. Don’t leave yet. If I let go of her, she moves in wider and wider circles, getting close to the edge. Come back, little Sheba. We’re both close to the edge now, peering over it into the great metaphorical beyond.

And then dawn arrives, and then it’s eight, and I begin to move forward, into it, without thinking. I carry her down to the water and let her stand on the shore, the birds wheeling and making their noises. In Iowa she ran into a cornfield once and didn’t come out for a long time, and when she did, she seemed thoughtful. The Lab once went on a garbage run and afterward threw up what looked like a whole birthday cake, candles and all. I carry her back up the hill and the neighbor runs out of her house, half dressed for work, and opens the car door for me.

“Is it time?” she asks me.

“Not yet,” I tell her.

All the way across town, driving and holding her in the passenger seat with one hand, I think to myself, Don’t think. All the way from Iowa to Ithaca, eight hundred miles, she stood in the back seat on the rolled-up rug, her chin on my shoulder, and watched the landscape scroll by. I feel her humming against my hand, trying to turn, and then we’re turning, we’re in the parking lot, we’re here.

It’s time.


Werner Hoeflich spent the evening at his catering job, making white-wine spritzers and mixing vodka with Tab in a spacious apartment overlooking Central Park. There were orchids, thick rugs, a dog with long blond hair. He walked home late from the subway afterward, along the gated and padlocked streets of the Upper East Side. The trees on his block were scrawny and impervious, like invalid aunts.

Once, he had seen a parakeet in one of those trees, staring down at him, shifting from foot to foot. The bird had sharpened both sides of its beak on the branch and then made a veering, panicky flight to a windowsill far above. Most of Werner’s metaphorical moments were painterly—the juxtaposing of the wild bird and the tame tree, the shimmer of periwinkle, the splurt of titanium white that fell from it onto the pavement. He loved New York for its simple surprises, although in truth, Oregon and Iowa and Arizona and everywhere else had simple surprises as well. Cantaloupe-colored sunrises, banded cows, Dairy Queens, all kinds of things that didn’t include black plastic mountains of trash and the smell of dog urine. But on that night it wasn’t like that; it was cold and fresh on the dark streets. He rounded the corner and his building came into view, a turn-of-the-century tenement where, right about then—just before midnight, December 19, 1991—another kind of New York surprise was taking shape. Deep inside the walls, three floors below Werner’s apartment, a sprig of cloth-wrapped wire sizzled and then opened, like a blossom.


From the street it looked like a single building but it was actually twin tenements set next to each other and connected along the facade. Werner let himself into the entrance on the left, walked to the back, and climbed to the fifth floor, where he was greeted by his cat, Two. She trotted ahead of him into the kitchen to wait for her bounty, served on an unfurled bed of tinfoil—a pale smear of liver pâté and several translucent strands of sashimi.

Feet up, Werner dialed Eugene, Oregon, and had a nice conversation with his mother. He liked to call home late, when they were just getting to the end of their West Coast day and he was still energized, sitting in his skivvies in the over-hot apartment. The walls were bumpy and pocked, thick plaster reinforced with horsehair, but he had whitewashed them and hired someone to refinish the wood floors. They were hay-colored and gleamed in the lamplight. His paintings hung here and there, dark backgrounds with shapes emerging out of them—construction machinery, the camshaft of an ocean liner, simple tools, almost but not quite abstract.

When Werner finally slept that night, it was like sinking slowly through water, fathom by fathom, to the ocean floor. He might have been dreaming when the wiring finally ignited, carrying fire upward through the building. He thought he could feel things swirling in the darkness, but when he tried to reach for them, the weight of the water pressed him to the bed.

Sometime between four and five a.m., the tenants in 2C heard a heavy pounding noise in the ceiling, which then collapsed. Their upstairs neighbors in 3C heard the same sound and then their ceiling collapsed as well; they made it to the fire escape and began screaming. The 2C tenants left through the stairwell with their children, although the wife became paralyzed with confusion and fear and the husband had to drag her. In the panic they left their door open.

The fire engulfed 2C and billowed out into the hallway. Werner woke to the sound of screaming. He was next to an open window on a loft bed six feet off the floor. He sat up and pulled the string to the light, a bare bulb in the ceiling. Rectangular shapes jumped at him in the glare—wardrobe, doorway, rug. The screams were of a type Werner hadn’t heard before.

His brain spun like a tire that wouldn’t catch: the familiar terrain of his bedroom, the heavy scent of smoke drifting through the petals of the window fan, his own bent knees draped in a sheet.

He needed to get dressed and get to the street, help whoever was in trouble. He grabbed for his clothes but couldn’t find the first thing he needed, underwear. He turned, and then turned back. He could see them in his memory—stacks of brightly colored boxers as well as the other kind, folded neatly on a shelf—but there was something blocking him, an invisible membrane between Werner and the next step. He stood in front of the tall, impenetrable wardrobe. He had been awake for approximately fifteen seconds. The screams were loud and prolonged, people coming unhinged.

Without his underpants he couldn’t think.


It was a familiar scent, but distant—campfires in his past, in the Oregon woods. Boiled coffee, damp socks, Werner rooted to a stump, bow across his lap. Deer, someone had told him, needed at least two senses to pinpoint danger, some pairing of sight, sound, smell; otherwise they just stood there, uncertain.

Sound of screams, smell of smoke.

Werner bounded naked to the front door, flipped the locks, flung it open, and a wall of smoke hit him in the face. He slammed it shut, turned, and squinted into the apartment. More smoke was coming in through the living room. He imagined the roof and the street below. Werner had been awake now maybe twenty-five seconds and had his first coherent thought. He thought he didn’t want to be naked if he had to jump off the building.

He stepped back into the bedroom, and a dry, papery gray cloud consumed him. He dropped to his hands and knees and put his cheek to the floor. With this nearsighted, close-up view, he could see smoke curling up through the floorboards, black specks inside the tendrils like a flock of birds banking and moving together. Dark geese rising into the Oregon sky. He wasn’t going to find oxygen at the floor.


Time was starting to slow down.

His room was teeny and cramped; with the bare lightbulb, it looked cheap and garish, like a torture site. He pulled the cord to the bulb on his way to the window and then in darkness struggled to lift the sash. The window fan, set in the upper half of the casement, was blocking it. He thrust his fingers into the grating of the fan and tugged, but it wouldn’t move. For an instant he became an animal, tearing at the immovable fan, panic surging upward, overtaking him like flames.

He let go of the fan. His arms dropped to his sides.


Once as a teenager he had gone hunting on the land of a man who was his father’s patient. When his father introduced him to the man, Werner said, “Hi.” Afterward his father lit into him, uncharacteristically, for not being more respectful—he explained that when called upon to meet someone, Werner should step forward and extend his hand. His father, a physician, was gentle and decent; that was about the only time he had ever been sharp with his son.

Now Werner made a shift. He spoke to himself firmly but kindly, like a father. Werner, he said, you’ve got to calm down. You’ve dealt with this fan before.

He remembered—it was suspended from the top by two neat hooks he had put there himself. After lifting it free, then shoving both panes of glass up and wedging them tightly into the frame, Werner stuck his whole torso out the window, sucking in air.

Everything suddenly became crystalline and calm; he could breathe. He looked around, listening, and heard sirens.

“Building’s on fire! Call the fire department!” he yelled, leaning out the window.

Straight across was his building’s twin, silent and dark. Off to the left, in back of the buildings, was a vacant lot surrounded by cyclone fencing. Beyond that was Ninety-Sixth Street. Sirens but no fire trucks. Below him, flames were shooting out of the third-floor windows and curling around the edge of the building.

He lost his fear. He was completely in the moment, experiencing instead of anticipating. Time stretched like rubber. Fascinated, he wandered around inside each moment as though it were a cavernous room.


Summer job at a retread factory, endless deafening days in which the hours were earned slowly through an accumulation of stiff, stinking cords of rubber to be stamped and stacked and helpless, imaginary encounters with every girl in his high-school class. Ghost girls who joined him at his locker first thing and followed him out onto the floor. He had to brush past them in order to do his work; interference—one wrong move and your finger, hand, arm is gone. The clock would hop its minutes interminably and then suddenly everyone was poised, Werner and his colleagues, men in big gloves who had been out of high school for thirty years. When the buzzer went off, they were like a herd of steers aiming for a hole in the fence.

Get out while you can, they told him.

Sound clattered back into his head and he began to hear people screaming again, this time from the fire escapes on the other side of the building. Black smoke was billowing from the windows below. The fire was working its way up, floor by floor, the wind moving the smoke to the south, where the fire escapes were. His neighbors kept screaming, many voices, desperate and trapped. Werner was sure they were dying.

Beyond the end of the building and across the vacant lot, he saw a dozen or so people at the bus stop on Ninety-Sixth standing against the cyclone fencing and staring up at the building like people at a bonfire, their faces lit by flames.

He was still experiencing perfect clarity, assessing everything he could see in a clinical manner, sweeping his gaze from the people watching to the flames below him and the strands of black smoke funneling out the windows.

He could see two options. One was taking a T-shirt, wetting it, draping it over his face, then leaving the apartment and making a run for the roof. The other was crossing the living room to the fire escape and joining his neighbors in their cauldron of despair. The stairwell to the roof wasn’t navigable; he’d already glimpsed it when he opened his door. The living room was dense with smoke; if he did make it across, there was no way he’d get the window gate unlocked. It was new, put in when Werner was out of town, crisscrossed bars with a key the super had placed somewhere along the ledge above.

He was trapped, nearsighted and naked in a burning building. He reached behind, groping, and found the robe that always hung from the loft bed. He put it on without pulling his head back into the room. He leaned farther out.


Werner had said just that night to his friend James that he was sick of being a caterer and wasn’t going to do it anymore. He was thinking of taking a long-ago professor’s advice and becoming a fireman, a good job for an artist. Not that his fellow caterers weren’t artists too—painters, opera singers, designers—but this was 1991; AIDS and Reagan had happened and Werner hadn’t gotten out of the business when everyone else did. No matter how depressing it got, his coworkers growing gaunt and dying, the economy surging and plummeting, he just hung in there.

He had seen a man nearly lose a hand once, not at the retread factory but later, in college during a gymnastics meet, a friend whose leather grip had somehow caught in the apparatus when he went up and over the bar. His wrist twisted as he finished the revolution, and he hung there until they could climb up and unbuckle the glove. They laid him on the floor, and the hand looked so strange lying against the blue of the mat, the wrist bones jutting straight up, white and exposed, that someone put a Dixie cup over it.

The fire crew would have to come from behind the building, Werner realized, in order to climb up and save him; they’d have to carry their ladder through the vacant lot, over the cyclone fences, and into the dark space between the two buildings. Growing up, Werner had worked his way around his family’s property on a tall stepladder each summer, moving it a few feet at a time as he trimmed the eight-foot hedge that ran along the border. From a distance, the hedge was squared off and stylized, like the neat shrubbery in a Grant Wood painting, but up close it was a dense chaotic bramble of bent twigs and thick, waxy leaves. Bay laurel. He knew its shades of green intimately. Once, far away from home, Werner dreamed of the bay-laurel hedge, of stepping inside and finding it hollow, a cool rectangular box that he could lie down in.

Firemen weren’t going to save him. They didn’t even save cats anymore.


His cat! He turned to shout her name into the apartment.

He couldn’t believe what was behind him—the smoke was everywhere, dark and billowing. He shouted into it and then listened. After a moment, coming from somewhere far away, he heard a meow. He kept calling, and the meowing got closer and closer until finally Two was at the open bedroom door. Werner took a breath and ducked back to snatch her up. She struggled, her fur matted and sticky with soot, so he held her in front of him under the arms like you would a toddler. She yowled, raspy from swallowing smoke.

It was like trying to breathe through flannel. Werner realized he was going to die.


The dark back seat of a car in Iowa City, returning to campus from a gymnastics meet junior year. Werner and Nate, the guy who would later nearly lose his hand, folded into the back seat, Clayton the all-around guy driving, somebody else shotgun, all of them high on exhaustion and victory. Werner had a simple but impeccable high-bar mount—vertical jump, grab the bar, swing forward, arch, and then pike in to create the momentum that would shoot the legs up to a handstand. After that, the delirious, controlled fall into giant circles, the body as fully extended as it would go.

In the middle of campus, coming over a rise, they saw it just as they hit it: black ice on the downslope of a steep hill; the car in front of them skated sideways as their car hit the ice and shot forward like a bullet. Slowly revolving, the sideways car turned and headed back toward them broadside, gaining velocity, its blue flank growing larger and larger. It felt like five weeks, the time between the two cars starting to skid and the jarring impact.

That’s what time felt like now, elongated and dreamlike, the outcome sliding toward him out of the cold night.


Inside the smoke, he turned with his cat, moving from the doorway back to the window, three long strides broken down into tiny, fractured increments of motion. Nude descending a staircase of absurdity—it wasn’t even his fault, and this is how it ends? He almost laughed. Whatever had happened had happened on a floor below, some accident that had nothing to do with him, but he would be part of the outcome.

It wasn’t so much that he’d never thought it would end this way as that he’d never thought it would end. His life was so absorbing—a series of long studio days pulling images out of the dark backgrounds. And he was moving away from that now, the backgrounds receding and the objects themselves seeming less iconic and barnacled and more…something else. He had wanted to see where he was going was all, had wanted to follow the work.

He was thirty-six, mid-stride metaphorically and literally. His first studio in New York had been on the property of Cohen Carpentry; the scent of sawdust and the industrious buzz of power tools had become linked with the other accoutrements of creativity—the bristling arrangements of brushes in their jars, the silver tubes of paint, the tin echo inside the turp can as he lifted it to pour. On a grant, he had gone to Europe and traveled for four months, drawn to the construction sites in each city he visited. Enormous crawling insects with men operating their pincers, thick sinewy cables like muscled arms, pulleys with long horselike faces, iron beams baled and lashed together like bundles of kindling, strands of rebar emerging from concrete, bent like giant curling hairs. Werner, lonely and ecstatic, made drawings of it all.

The drawings, back home, became paintings. He painted his way through the objects to what was beyond; he painted the camshaft of the ocean liner until it was like a word repeated so many times that it turned into something new and foreign.

Even watching all his catering colleagues growing stark, faltering with their trays, eyes getting larger as their flesh diminished, Werner had never realized that something unimaginable occurred when the end slithered up. It curled around your feet and entwined you; you became part of it instead of it becoming part of you.


  • “Ferocious… Beard [is] a towering talent… Perhaps instead of an essayist we should think of her as a poet-naturalist, wedding intuition and observation, and forming from this union something unaccountably yet undeniably real… a book as forceful as it is fine, leaving us both awed and unsettled.”—Leah Hager Cohen, New York Times Book Review
  • “Beautiful… Beard’s power comes from phrasings and insights that aren’t just screaming for likes. Few writers are so wise and self-effacing and emotionally honest all in one breath… Over the course of nine beguiling pieces—which seamlessly meld observation and imagination—she effects an intimacy that makes us want to sit on the rug and listen.”—Sara Lippmann, Washington Post
  • “[Beard’s] books are worth the wait. A master of sensory details, she also writes with humor, melancholy and a love of animals that never borders on saccharine… In her work, even everyday moments gleam with significance.”—Michele Filgate, Los Angeles Times
  • “A master of creative nonfiction, Beard explores life’s most salient moments through facts that she sometimes fractures.”—Amy Sutherland, Boston Globe
  • “Intimate, intelligent, intense—and ultimately comforting… Like a hot water bottle for grief, these honest, beautiful essays and stories take on the death of a beloved animal, a friend’s illness, getting dumped by a partner and other tragedies few escape.”—People (Book of the Week)
  • “Charged with fine detail… Beard is so good at what she does… In Beard's book, writing works like compound interest, each experience building on the last, which built on the one before.”—Ellen Akins, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • “A book so good you have to put it down, then pick it back up… The most indelible stories in Festival Days observe just as unflinchingly as Beard’s characters face the extremities of life and death. I can’t think of a writer who puts words to our most difficult moments as adroitly as Beard—who so steadfastly refuses to cut away when things get tough.”—Dan Kois, Slate
  • “Beard’s syntax is immortalizing… An acute quality in Beard’s work makes the stories feel lived, even alive, as if they are still happening. Sometimes, as writers, we see things for real only once we are writing them, and Beard’s title essay distills this fact beautifully.”—Rachel DeWoskin, Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Beard shows her dazzling skill at finding universal truths in singular situations. Beard is not just a master of the short form—she’s a master of phrase and sentence, too.”—Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post
  • “A new collection from the masterful storyteller Jo Ann Beard is always reason to celebrate, and Festival Days marks her long-anticipated return to the essay. Written with clear-eyed empathy, these nine pieces have the luminous glow of fireflies caught in a child’s hand.”—Chicago Review of Books
  • “Beard renders her own life and the lives of others with characteristic precision… With each piece, she presses the essay form into new, more intimate territory.”

    Poets & Writers
  • “An absolute marvel… as Beard demonstrates in her writing, life as we know it is full of bizarre, sad, beautiful, unbelievable, indescribable things—events that transform our real lives into surreal experiences.”—Chelsea Hodson, Bomb Magazine
  • "An impressive return... [Beard's] topics range from the quotidian to the fantastic, but all are anchored by observant, beautifully written prose that's sure to rank among the year's best."—Town & Country (Must-Read Books of Winter 2021)
  • “Imaginative and precise… These sharp essays cement Beard’s reputation as a master of the form… [she] can evoke many emotions in a single stroke.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • Festival Days shimmers with emotional intensity… evoking the flashes of memory that come to those pausing on the threshold between life and death… Allowing her work to exist beyond the labels of fiction or nonfiction, Beard’s metaphorical patterns evince the imaginative truths that underlie her writing”—Catherine Hollis, Bookpage (starred review)
  • “Beard's keen eye for novelistic detail subtly transforms pure fact into art… Vital and diverse, Jo Ann Beard's second collection is an intriguing blend of fact and fiction.”—Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
  • “Beard is known as a nonfiction essayist, but her work often reads like suspenseful fiction… this collection of nine essays… continues that formidable track record.”—Bookpage
  • "Festival Days is profoundly observed and impeccably phrased. No surprises there, then, given Jo Ann Beard’s formidable talents. But it’s actually full of audacious narrative surprises, is darkly moving and, at times, unexpectedly—almost unbearably—suspenseful.”—Geoff Dyer, author of Otherwise Known as the Human Condition and White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World
  • “‘I love how you love things,’ someone who loves her tells Jo Ann Beard. That love is one reason Festival Days is such a great book. Another is her flair for describing those things in vibrant and felicitous prose. Beard honors the beautiful, the sacred, and the comic in life, and for life’s inescapable cruelties and woes she offers the wisdom of a sage.”—Sigrid Nunez, author of What Are You Going Through and National Book Award-winning The Friend
  • Festival Days is an artistic triumph—vividly peopled, elegantly written, and full of surprises. Each essay and story is an electrically-charged tale of loss and partial redemption. Reading Jo Ann Beard is like setting out on a walk with a curious and intelligent friend who is determined to show you how seemingly unrelated things share a secret kinship.”—Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game

On Sale
Apr 5, 2022
Page Count
272 pages
Back Bay Books

Jo Ann Beard

About the Author

Jo Ann Beard is the author of the groundbreaking collection of autobiographical essays, The Boys of My Youth, and the novel, In Zanesville. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Best American Essays, and other magazines and anthologies. She has received a Whiting Foundation Award and nonfiction fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2022, she received an American Academy of Arts and Letters 2022 Award in Literature. She teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

Learn more about this author