When you ask people what’s great about LA, they might say the weather or the beach or the sushi or art walk or the New Bev or Umami Burger… but they almost never say “the literary scene.” Yknowhatimsayin?
Still, we read. Well, some of us do, anyway, and many of those some of us will be at LA Times’ Festival of Books this weekend. I’ll admit I’ve never been there myself (though other b.la’ers have). Somehow it always gets trumped by a work event or a trip or something. This year, though, may be the year for me. I would love, love, love to see Jennifer Egan on Saturday*, though given her recent award, that panel will no doubt be packed plus I have a time conflict with a three-year-old’s birthday party in Ventura (Does the J.Egan panel promise a bouncy house? I think not!).
Instead I may venture out on Sunday which, among other goodies, features Barbara Eden being interviewed at 12:10 about her book Jeannie Out of the Bottle (followed by a Rick Springfield interview–am I the only one thinking “from the sublime to the ridiculous”). Apparently you need to get tickets for panels (sigh) so a little strategizing is probably in order. Mona Simpson, Jessica Hagedorn, Pico Iyer, Kristin Hersh (who knew she wrote a book?), Jonathan Lethem, Maxine Hong Kingston…. It feels a little like trying to map out a course schedule when I was an undergrad. Happily, there’s an app to help.
There is music and a cooking stage and a kid’s stage. And there are a metric ton of exhibitors and booths including the Writers Guild Foundation whose booth will be staffed Sunday by our own Kevin Ott. The seasoned among you will want to note the festival is not at UCLA anymore. It’s at USC. There are free shuttles from Union Station and the convention center (thank you Target).
It all feels like a bit of a daunting proposition so I’ve been asking for advice on tacking the FoB and I can pretty much sum up all of the wisdom I’ve received in the sentence, “It’s always very hot there.” So I’m asking y’all: Any Festival of Books advice?
*And here’s my unsolicited fiction advice: Fans of the gothic should pick up a copy of Egan’s The Keep, which is a truly inspired neo-gothic novel. Her latest, A Visit from the Goon Squad, won the Pulitzer so it hardly needs a recommendation from me, but I’ll give one anyway (I admit I cried at the end).