Sunday, April 22, 2012
L.A. Times Festival of Books Today I had an adventure. I rode up on the Amtrak train to L.A. to attend the L.A. Festival of Books. Although it has been going on for years and years, this is the first time I have managed to get there. This is because I have a fear of driving on freeways, and Richard doesn't like to drive to L.A. either. Can't really blame him. The freeways are mobbed, and once you get to L.A., the streets are worse. Parking is obscenely expensive too. But luckily, the Festival folks offered a free shuttle from Union Station, so I hopped on the train, and took the shuttle to the U.S.C. campus! The schedule of panel discussions, readings, and exhibits was listed online, as well as in a program published in last week's Sunday paper, so I was able to buy my tickets (only $1.00 per session) before I left and check in easily at each session. The first session started at 10, almost as soon as I arrived on the campus. It was a panel including three fantasy/science fiction writers, including Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians and The Magician Kings, among other books. You may recall that I wrote a review of his novels that was published in The Hollins Critic. I couldn't carry his novels up there to be signed, so I took a copy of that, since it was just a little pamphlet, easy to carry, and he signed it after the session. The other two guys were interesting too, and I want to read their books. They were John Scalz1 and Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass War. The discussion was about the provocative issue of "world-making" and whether all fiction was essentially world-making or just this particular genre of fantasy and science fiction. I think they came to the conclusion ultimately that all reading was world making too since we all make or remake the book out of our own experience and inclinations. Then I went to a poetry reading by Carol Muske-Dukes, which I liked very much. She told stories before all her poems that were much longer than the poems were. And after that I headed over to the food tents in order to eat, and ran into a woman who lived near me. When I told her my name, she said she knew that name from somewhere. It turned out that she had heard about the time I won runner up in Worst First Line of the Novel, many years ago (at least 27 years ago), and there was an article about it in the paper. The line was for an imagined western. This is it: "A cowboy should know his horse, but the podners down at Triple Q Ranch thought that Vernon McChew had gotten too close." She asked me whether I had ever been in the paper, and I told her about this. She immediately said that a friend of hers had recently quoted that line to her, and that it had made her day! I was stunned. It seems that when we put things out there, even something as long ago and casual as this, they may touch others in ways we cannot imagine. I had a good day, and am feeling quite positive as I write these words about the small world we all live in, made even smaller by the community of writing and reading that so many of us belong to.