It’s been two weeks since I attended the LA Times Festival of Books, which means you’ve already read about it from Florinda and Trish (who was a total over-achiever and posted right after she got home!) and Leah and Mark and Wendy and Thea and Ti (where you can see pictures!) and Amy.
What can I say…I’m a laggard.
So what did I do at the Festival of Books? Well, I walked around and checked out some of the booths (my favorites are Vromans and a traveler’s bookshop that I can never remember the name of), and I attended some of the panels (details below) and I had dinner with most of the lovely bloggers mentioned above, and I hung out with Trish (and talked her ear off) and then the next day I went to more panels and looked at more booths.
And yes, I bought some books.
It was all quite wonderful.
Some thoughts on/from the panels I attended:
- Writing the Other – with Petina Gappah, Marilyn Chin, Leonard Chang, and Chitra Divakaruni and moderated by Alex Espinosa. Three of these authors are new to me (I’ve read Divakaruni’s One Amazing Thing). Of the three, Petina Gappah really stood out. She has a book out titled An Elegy for Easterly, which I totally want to read. It’s a collection of stories about Zimbabwe. I loved her attitude…she said that her book is her take on Zimbabwe, it doesn’t represent Zimbabwe and she doesn’t claim that it is true. She also loves misery. She doesn’t want to write happy, uplifting Africa stories or be the spokesperson for either Africa or Zimbabwe. She also stated that it is important to remember that “everyone is other to someone else.” I’m afraid the others weren’t as fascinating to listen to. Leonard Chang has a degree in philosophy and sounds like it. He lost me half of the time. Marilyn Chin was funny but scattered and Chitra Divakaruni tended to monopolize the conversation. So I didn’t take notes on anyone else.
- Lives Intertwined – Moderated by the wonderful Veronique de Turenne and featuring authors Janelle Brown, Kate Walbert (author of A Short History of Women, which I will review later this month), Jennifer Gilmore and Cathleen Schine. I chose this panel solely for the moderator, since I was so impressed with her last year. And she was equally fantastic this year (especially since she noted that the names of the panels just “slay” her). Each of the authors read the opening paragraph from their latest book, and then they had a hilarious discussion on chick lit. Veronique suggested that when women write about families it is designated chick lit. When men write about families they get the Pulitzer Prize. Cathleen followed up by stating that if your book is about anything other than rape and suicide it gets tagged as chick lit. Needless to say, the women do not like the designation.
- History through Fiction’s Lens – Thomas Curwen (moderator), Gabrielle Burton, Thaisa Frank and Indu Sunderesan. This was so boring that I actually walked out after 15 minutes. I talked to someone later who fell asleep in this panel. Gabrielle Burton is the author of the Tamsen Donner novel that is currently getting a lot of mention. However, based on the lack of oomph in this panel I can say I won’t be reading any of these authors.
- A Conversation with John Green and David Levithan, authors of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I didn’t take any notes during this panel, but I did tweet some of their comments. Both men were hysterical, and the audience (mostly teenage girls) was crazy for them. It was like being at a rock concert. Think the Beatles and their screaming fans. It was great to see.
- Art of the Critic – with Laura Miller, Lev Grossman, Albert Mobilio, and Elif Batuman. Moderated by David Ulin. This panel was about the role of criticism and it turned out to be a fascinating discussion. They didn’t talk so much about what makes a “good” critical review, but rather the new role of the critic and their relationship with the reader (both the reader of the book, and the reader of their column).
I actually had tickets to two other panels on Sunday afternoon, but I was still in line for lunch when the first started (priorities, people!), and instead of hanging around for two more hours, I blew off the last panel and headed home.
It was a great bookish weekend, even if I thought that the panels last year were much better. I’ll be back next year!