My experience at this year's Festival of books was defined by two things: helping set up the Vermin on the Mount/Swink Magazine booth and hitting as many LA/California related panels as I could, being as I was there on an LAist press pass.That's Jim, founder of Verminin the booth. He is probably telling me to stop messing around with my camera.
The first panel I hit was "Building Creative Community" with Richard Rayner moderating and John Baxter, Carolyn See and Michael Walker discussion various creative communities. Michael Walker will be coming soon to talk about his new book Laurel Canyon, which focuses on the brief but influential period when a bunch of ambitious, talented hippie-ish musicians holed up in a canyon over Hollywood. It seemed like a more apt title for the panel would have dropped "building." Laila summed it up nicely and her husband Alex even got a photo.
Saturday's First Fiction panel was surprisingly dull, despite the fact that Susan Salter Reynolds can be a terrific moderator. Here's a hint: do NOT begin a literary panel with each panelist reading from their work. Really, we're here for the discussion: if the discussion is good, we'll hunger to read the books themselves. Anyway, Olga Grushin was not much of a reader but she was an engaging panelist. Kirstin Allio was an excellent reader but acted like being on the panel was torture, sighing when asked direct questions and dropping her head into her hands. Uzodinma Iweala, who'd just won the first fiction award, seemed happy and a bit surprised. He mentioned his mentor (Jamaica Kincaid) more than once. With the attention she gave his work, I wonder if his classmates got much.
Next up was Joan Didion being interviewed by David Ulin. A few Didionisms: "John's death changed me. I didn't care about hiding things anymore.... My whole style is based on withholding information." When Ulin followed up that she'd been a character in her reporting, she answered, "I was always present in my work because I never believed in objectivity .... I could triangulate if I knew where the writer was standing, what they writer thought." You know, Joan Didion could puke on the stage and I'd think it was clever and insightful, so I've got lots more of these to come.