The Festival of Bookworms: The Cliff Notes Version
I hope you had a good holiday weekend. Chances are, unless you’re that wicca freak who won my lottery jackpot or you finally bedded that long-lusted love, my weekend was better than yours … because I spent my Saturday and Sunday at the second annual Decatur Book Festival.
The festival was better than I expected — and I had great expectations. Writers left and right. Shakespeare performed on the rotunda, poetry slams just steps away. Booths of books and small publishers and writers groups (and beer). Who wants to stay outside on a lovely day when you can go inside darkened halls and listen to authors talk and read their works? Not this wormish woman.
At any given afternoon moment, there were five readings or panels. Not quite a Sophie’s choice, but decisions such as whether to see Hollis Gillespie or Peter Case were tough — which was, in a way, rather thrilling because it meant there were a lot of great writers hanging in my ‘hood this weekend.
Here are the weekend highlights.
Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the name, but you may know of his alter-ego’ed John Wesley Harding, a helluva great musician. Stace’s second novel, By George, was just published. His grandfather was a ventriloquist in England during the middle twentieth century, and half the book is narrated by George, his grandfather’s dummy. Yes, Stace tracked it down, and George is touring with him.
Wesley Stace, on stage with George
I got tweener giggles as I walked into the room — Wesley Stace was chatting with Sherman Alexie as I walked by. They both smiled — probably because I had that “golly!” look on my face and kept sneaking peeks at them. I’m such a dork.
This was the first proper long reading of the book, and Stace did a great job with the reading. He was adorable — very British, very charming and witty. Oh, and he’s cute as hell — and he pronounces “papier-mâché” the British way (also the French way, I assume), which made my toes curl. He did a ventrilo-bit with George, which was fun since Stace has no skills in that area.
His John Wesley Harding self was scheduled to perform that evening, so I looked forward to a tale of two Wesleys.
Alexie has been on my top-thirty shelf since I first read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven in 1993, right after I started working at the bookstore. If you haven’t read him, you should. Maybe you saw the movie Smoke Signals, which was based on those stories.
The worst photo of Sherman Alexie … ever
Catching his appearance was at the top of my festival must list. And Sherman didn’t disappoint. He was personable and funny, alive when he read from his soon-to-be-released young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. This was his first public reading of the book (we got a lot of those this weekend), so he called his editor so we could all yell hello and took a photo of us.
I picked up a copy of his new book, Flight, earlier Saturday, and read it Sunday morning. Great book.He took a lot of questions from the audience, sharing parts of himself such as he writes in his head 24/7 (just like I do!) and telling us how he found his poet’s soul in college. I walked out of the sanctuary smitten; two for two for the day.
I almost forgot*: As he was signing my copy of Flight, Sherman sang Kiss’ “Beth” to me. I’ve hated that song since it came out in 1976 … that is, I hated it until 6:12 p.m. Saturday.
*Do you really believe I almost forgot that tidbit?
Wordsmiths Books Panel: Blogging
I got to Wordsmiths a bit late, thanks to enjoying a burger and beer with Scrivener and Mike, but I saw the last fifteen minutes. Wish I’d made it in time; they were paneling about blogging.
I stole this from Baby Got Books; that’s Tim with the microphone.
Later that same evening …
I was excited about Wesley Stace as John Wesley Harding wowing me with his live music … but I ran into a former someone an hour before the show … who charmed me into a beer … which led to another beer … which, well, I had a lot of beer. And no John Wesley Harding ringing in my ears.
Sunday arrives. The simple plan was to hit the festival around noon, in time to see Edmund White, then Robert Olan Butler or Karen Abbott, but Alexie’s book kept me in the bed until I finished it around noon. Still had plenty of time to hit Klosterman. Hit the square an hour before he hit the stage, so I picked up an overpriced gyro and wandered the stalls, watched a bit of Shakespeare, bought even more books. And then I headed to the library, with ten minutes to spare.
Ten minutes, though, is too late for a Chuck Klosterman appearance. The room hit capacity, so we were led to an overflow room for a simulcast of the interview. Klosterman was thrilled — it was his first time being simulcast. Klosterman was interviewed by Paste magazine founder Josh Jackson (Paste’s HQ is a mile or so off the square).
Paste’s Josh Jackson interviewing Chuck Klosterman
I expected Klosterman to have a snarky, surly edge to him — but he wasn’t. He was funny and entertaining and excited to be talking. He talked about some of his better-known columns, including a good discussion on the Advanced Theory (that day’s example: R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” — Klosterman said the video of him urinating on that young girl is the least weird of the bunch).
I saw Josh Jackson after Hollis Gillespie’s appearance, so I stopped to tell him he did a great job with the interview; he thanked me and said it was a lot of fun. What I really wanted to do was grab him by the knees and beg for a job at Paste, even as a proofreader. And yet I behaved, shy Cup that I am.Klosterman had so much fun, he said he wouldn’t mind going over the allotted time to take more questions — but, alas, there was a schedule to follow.
Oh: He has yet to watch an episode of Real World: Sydney.
Do I even need to write it? Hollis Gillespie was funny and loopy — and inspiring. She appeared with some other blonde writer from Atlanta for a Q&A, and she kept the room laughing. She’s as disorganized a writer as I am — but she puts forth a bit more effort than I do outside my cubicle.
Hollis Gillespie signs my book.
Hollis wants to be my best friend — she just doesn’t know it yet:
She gave us the scoop on her first two books being optioned for television: Mitch Hurwitz, who wrote for "Arrested Development," is heading the project, with Laura Dern in the lead role. They're now shopping it around.
And ... Ms. Gillespie's third book will be published next year.
As I said, Hollis inspired me. She offers a series of writing classes here in town, and I told her I planned to sign up for one this fall. Keep me to that promise, okay? And you can one day say “I read her when” after I’ve become the next NPR star.
I first heard Aaron Petrovich read at Brooklyn Comes to Decatur, part of a writer’s conference held here in February. His novella is pure dialog — two men talking — and he performed a part of it then and on Sunday. And “performed” is meant here more than anywhere else on this page. It was more theater than reading. He’s captivating, and I’m now a fan. I didn’t take a photo of Aaron Petrovich because I didn’t want to distract him from his reading/performance. Too bad, because he’s damn cute. And that voice — *swoon*.
Petrovich is associate editor at Akashic Books, and I stopped by their booth earlier in the day. He recommended another book from the imprint … and I got to hear him speak. Nothing better than a handsome man with a sexy voice.
Later that same evening …
I was excited about finally seeing Peter Case perform — and meeting Intravenus de Milo’s Tony Alva — but the tug of the books was too strong. I opted for bed and a book; specifically, Wesley Stace’s By George.
Yep. I picked books over music.
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