Friday, October 21, 2005

Wisconsin Book Festival -- Part II

After such an interesting hour on the creators of Nancy Drew, I found it difficult deciding which event I should take in next. There was another author appearance at A Room of One’s Own, but there were also a couple of mystery writers appearing together out at Booked For Murder. I waffled. I was already at A Room Of One’s Own and Booked For Murder was at least three miles away. I glanced at my watch. I could probably catch a bus heading out that way on the half hour. Waffled…glanced at watch again. Almost an hour before the BFM event. I decided to head out that way – but rather than wait for the bus, I would walk. If I got going right away I could make it before 5pm.

So, off I went -- first the mile down State Street, and over a block to University Avenue. And then the arduous journey began. Thankfully, University is mostly flat and I was moving in the direction that traffic flows down this long one-way avenue, but it was still quite a trek. I did make it by 5pm, but was already regretting my decision to walk. I was thirsty and starting to get hungry, and was at first glad to see that they had cheese and crackers, fruit and cookies set out, but my stomach was grumbling for something more substantial. It would have to wait.

Booked For Murder is another small, independent bookseller in Madison, this one specializing in mystery and suspense. Cards tacked randomly to the shelves list all the books by a particular author, or in a certain series, while other tell why one of the staff recommends this particular book or author. I found the two Lisa Scottoline books I was missing, and chuckled over the card taped next to her shelf:

“Scottoline was over-touted as the female Grisham, however, those of us who have read her know she is funny, sassy and plain BETTER!” (Picked by Linda)

I have to agree. I am hopelessly hooked on Scottoline’s books and can’t believe it took me so long to discover her. I now have all but the newest, which is just out in hardcover so will have to wait. I am now reading Running From the Law and eagerly looking forward to the rest, now that I can read them all in order. It’s interesting that the first three were all in first person.

But I digress. After picking up the Scottolines and another I’ve been meaning to buy, I found a seat to listen to author Marshall Cook talk about his Monona Quinn series, which is set in a fictitious town outside Madison. He read the first chapter of the book before he and fellow author John Galligan signed books. Galligan was to talk about his book soon after that, but it was now going on 6 o’clock and I was really getting hungry, so after getting a copy of his older book The Nail Knot signed as a gift for Mom, I opted to check out and head back uptown. This time I really was going to take the bus, but had just missed those stopping on the hour, and it would be a long wait for the next, so…off I went again.

My legs were screaming at me by the time I reached Lake and University and a burger at McDonald’s. I ate slowly, savoring every bite while I wrote a bit in my journal. Then it was time to walk up State Street—again. My legs groaned, having already walked several miles that day.

I arrived at the Orpheum Theater near the tail end of one event and slipped into a seat near the back to await the start of a panel discussion on “Writing in Unreaderly Times” with new editor of The Paris Review, Philip Gourevitch, and Kevin Smokler, editor of anthology of essays Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times. The two debated the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2004 Reading at Risk report that stated half of American adults do not read literature, and that our country was at risk culturally due to this decline.

The authors and moderator shared their opinions of the study, and spoke about the many ways in which people do still read. One of the writers made the comment that perhaps some of these changes are because we have too many things to pay attention to, and are more aware of the global community. Both agreed that, though we live in confusing times, there is a lot to write about these days, and as many ways to write about the various events going on around us, including song lyrics and blogs. Print books, magazines and newspapers may be on the decline, but many do still read them online or via ebook readers or similar technology.

The panel also debated the merits of fiction versus nonfiction. One of the panelist said that, what we choose to write about in fiction says more about us, the writer, than our subject, while “everything is at heart in nonfiction.” Other points made were that what we want most in our reading is to be surprised by something; one always has time for reading, it’s a matter of choice; and there is a lot of time for novels, but that “novelistic eras” are cyclical.

This event was only allotted an hour’s time and, in my opinion, ended far too quickly and before the panelists could really explore some of the questions posed. They probably could have discussed the subject three hours and still left the audience wanting more. If you’d like to know more about “Bookmark Now” or any of the other books mentioned, check out the posting on it at Powell’s Books or click on the titles and author links above, or the images below.

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