I’m sure you all know this about me by now, but I think it’s time I came out and said it. My name is Kathryn and I am a book addict. Not even really a reading addict – I mean I love to read don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that causes problems in my life. Reading for fun sustains me, which is why I’m trying hard to make sure I have time for it this semester, despite the crushing amount of work I have. But no, my problem is with my inability to stop myself from buying books. I’ve been good for a long time, I don’t let myself idly wander through Book People; I patiently wait for a novel to come to me from the hold list at the library where I work rather than breaking down and buying it at Target, when I’m there to buy new black flats and nothing else (yeah right, but that’s another post for another time). But this weekend, I went on a bender. I couldn’t help myself the Texas Book Festival is too great too pass up, and it’s lined with big white tents filled with beautiful books I am unable to convince myself I don’t need to own.
So other than being a dangerous place for someone with my combination of interests and lack of self control, the Festival was filled with fascinating authors who really engaged with their moderators and every panel I went to was lovely. I won’t bore you all with a play by play, but like I did last year, give you my top 5 highlights (in chronological order):
- My favorite session of the first day was a tent full of poets (Nick Flynn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Gregory Pardlo talking about how we use poetry to talk about difficult subjects, and America (because you know America is basically a bunch of difficult subjects and beautiful rhetoric).
2. Later in the day in that same tent, I saw Jessica Hopper (author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic) interviewed by Kathy Valentine from The Go-Gos. She was very cool and inspiring (And so was Valentine, though she seemed a little unprepared), and had a great reaction to a drunk guy yelling something at her as he walked by during her reading.
3. On the second day I started my day at a panel titled “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed” based pretty much on the name. It turns out that’s the name of a book, which is a collection of essays from writers who decided not to have children writing about that decision. It was a thoughtful and interesting discussion, and more importantly, it introduced my to Geoff Dyer who was hilarious and gave me my favorite quote of the day:
“I’ve really got nothing against children. It’s the parents I can’t stand.”
4. I then went down to the Contemporary Austin, to listen to artist Mark Menjivar talk about his project The Luck Archive. I’ll admit I was partly going to see how he was misusing the word “archive,” but it turned out he isn’t at all. He has created a theoretically sound (accession numbers and all) archive of lucky charms, stories, philosophies of luck, and other luck-related ephemera. It was quirky and cool and made me want to become and archival artist (or an artist’s on call archivist, whichever really.)
5. I ended my festival in the House Chamber listening to Rookie editor Tavi Gevinson, and YA authors Julie Murphy and Rebecca Serle. The room was filled with women and girls ranging in age from 12 to 80 (I assume there were some men in there but I didn’t see them), and it felt like a lovely group of friends trading advice. I particularly loved Serle’s assertion that power comes from “understanding your own narrative and not feeling the need to convince other people of it.” And Murphy’s great (and totally true) line that “there is no one right way to be feminist or one right way to be a human being in general” because we are all contradicting ourselves all the time. Tavi also shared her love (which I share) for Carol Burnett, and gave the most practical advice of the day – “If you can Google it, don’t ask it in a Q&A.” Girl after my own heart.