Archive for October 14th, 2008

The Southern Festival of Books, Rick Bragg and Other Wonders

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending The Souther Festival of Books in Nashville, TN. I say “privilege” because this amazing event is free. Literally (and literary) more than 200 authors speak at this event which takes place in the environs of the Tennessee State Legislature.

I won’t make the obvious comment about the difference between the usual posturing and hot air you would find in that place as opposed to the second weekend in October. Oops. I guess I just did.

Ann Patchet, Richard Price, Sherman Alexie, and David Wroblewski were just a few of the very well known writers in attendance — all of them reading, talking, and signing. The only problem is that with such riches, you can only attend one session at a time. That often meant there were as many as 10 other sessions you were passing up.

I made a couple of poor choices. One biographer of an incredibly fascinating revolutionary was so boring his audience was drifting to sleep, despite the most uncomfortable chairs in the world. But some choices were sensational.

I made a point of sitting in on David Fuller’s session since I so recently reviewed his excellent Sweetsmoke. He was completely charming, very informative, and quite respectful of his audience. I regretfully came in late for Mark Winegardner’s talk about writing the sequels to The Godfather, but that was certainly eye opening.

However, I must save top honors for Rick Bragg. I heard him talk around a decade ago and he tore my heart out. He still does that, but he makes you laugh out loud as well. After reading his All Over but the Shouting, I permanently deleted the derogatory three word phrase often used to describe financially deprived Caucasians from my vocabulary. I felt ashamed to have ever used it. Bragg speaks for the rural poor, who are so largely forgotten in America. And he does it with such eloquence and grace you cannot help but be changed. Read him. Enlighten yourself.

And, make plans now to go to the Southern Festival of the Book next year. Bookmark this for updates.

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