Sunday, April 26, 2009
Fabulous blogging friends at the Festival of Books
What an amazing day! Amazing is what happens when you make a date to meet a bunch of your favorite bloggers IRL at the fantastic Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Yes, that's the kind of day I had yesterday. I got up early, left my husband in charge of the kids (or was it my kids in charge of my husband?), and headed over to the UCLA campus for the fabulous Festival of Books.
And then I met Trish from Hey, Lady, Whatcha Readin'?, Lisa from Books on the Brain, Amy from My Friend Amy, Ti from Book Chatter and other stuff, Natasha from Maw Books Blog, Jill from Fizzy Thoughts, Wendy from Musings of a Bookish Kitty and her husband Anjin (note to Anjin--just checked out your blog and saw that we could have had quite a conversation about WoW and the new patch--my husband, sons and I play, and I'm a lvl 80 night elf druid...so, we'll talk another time!), and Florinda from The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting and Randomness. Wow, such talented and lovely women! It was so great to meet them, and to share the day with them. I'm just bummed I missed dinner...but had to get home to make sure nobody burned the house down while I was away.
The panels I attended were very entertaining. A bunch of us started the day with "Status Update: Social Networking and New Media", with Otis Chandler, Wil Wheaton, and Sara Wolf. Otis Chandler, founder of Goodreads.com, was very interesting about the online book-loving community, and on making reading more of a social experience. Wil Wheaton, blogger and tweeter extraordinaire (and "Wesley Crusher", for those of you Star Trek: TNG fans) has a gazillion followers on Twitter (okay, 489,100--but wow!) and had some very interesting things to say about self-publishing, print-on-demand books, and the importance of the fact that in the new media of social networking, the users own it, and they define how it works. The other panelist, Sara Wolf, is a dance critic and e-zine creator, but I just wasn't interested in her "constellation" of stuff.
After that, we had a quick lunch together, and then I went alone to hear Marilynne Robinson in conversation with Susan Straight. I happen to love both writers, and they had a wonderful conversation about themes of Robinson's work, including race and the hidden abolitionist history of the midwest, and they also talked about the writing process for both of them, which I loved hearing about!
Next I joined back up with some of my blogging buddies again and we went to see the panel "Fiction: Window on the World", with Muriel Barbery, Vanina Marsot, Jonathan Rabb, and Lisa See.
I immediately got a girl crush on Muriel Barbery, who spoke in French and had a translator, and was completely charming. All four writers spoke about the importance of place in their novels, as all are set in foreign cities (well, foreign to us--Barbery writes about her own city of Paris, and so does Marsot, who lives both in this country and there).
Lisa See spoke about her new novel Shanghai Girls, which I am interested in for many reasons, not least of which is that it is set in two worlds I'd like to explore--Shanghai and Los Angeles from 1937 to 1957. During the question and answer period she recommended a novel, and I immediately scribbled down the information: The Age of Dreaming, by Nina Revoyr. It is set in Los Angeles in the 1960s, but is about a film star from the age of silent films. I'm going to be on the lookout for this one!
The book Jonathan Rabb spoke about is his newest novel, Shadow and Light, a sequel to his earlier novel Rosa, which tells the story of Rosa Luxemburg, a socialist who was murdered in 1919. His books depict the particular world of Berlin between the wars, a world that also sounds fascinating to me.
Muriel Barbery spoke through a translator about The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which has been a runaway hit in Europe, and which I just read for my book group and reviewed. She spoke about the genesis of the character of Renee Michel, the surprisingly intellectual concierge, who also made a brief appearance in Barbery's first novel. As I remember, Barbery said she struggled with the voice for the concierge, who spoke simply, until her publisher reminded her that as a novelist, she could make the character speak any way she wanted. And thus the intellectual concierge was born.
Vanina Marsot spoke about her novel, Foreign Tongue, which is set in Paris. It is about a Los Angeles native with dual citizenship who, after a bad break-up, runs away to Paris, and becomes a translator. She examines the differences between the cultures through the difficulties that come up during translating a novel from French to English.
After the panel, I wanted to buy another copy of The Elegance of the Hedgehog so that Ms. Barbery could sign it, but the book had already sold out! Annoying! But Lisa recommended Vanina Marsot's book, Foreign Tongue, so I bought that and had it signed. Ms. Marsot was very nice, and I'm looking forward to reading her book. I also got to say a quick hello to Ms. Barbery, and told her I loved her book. So that was good!
All in all, it was a magical day. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did, and I'm looking forward to having a reunion next year.