Sunday, April 29, 2007

Festival of Books

As promised I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books today for the first time in many years. It's even bigger than I last remembered. The very first year it was mostly isolated in Dickson Plaza. With more exhibitors, though, the festival spread to more areas of the campus, including down at the bottom of Janss Steps.

I was only planning on being at the festival for half the day. I was going to walk around and if I managed to get into a panel I will stay a little longer. I wound up getting to the festival a little after 9am and stayed until 7:30pm when everything was being taken down.

I sat in on two panels today. The first one was a very entertaining discussion on Inland Empire Fiction moderated by Tod Goldberg. Gayle Brandeis, Michael Jaime-Becerra, and Susan Straight were the panelists. The panel was lighthearted, aided by the fact that all four appear to be good friends. There was a lot of banter but the panel maintained its focus. I'd question, however, the inclusion of El Monte as part of the Inland Empire. Not quite. The east San Gabriel Valley certainly has many of the qualities as the Inland Empire. For one thing, it's inland. However, most experts agree that the I.E. only goes as far west as Montclair.

After the panel I walked around for a bit. I got hungry and decided to visit my old lunch hangout as an undergrad: Panda Express inside Ackerman. Back in my day a Panda Bowl (or Bruin Bowl then) cost less than $4. Today it cost me just under $5.

There were still tickets available for the 2:30 discussion on Fiction: Taking on the World, so I decided to sit in on that one, too. It was a lot less fun than the IE discussion and decidedly more serious and earnest. The questions tended to be amorphous and enigmatic, with the words "politics," "identity," "Truth" being bandied about. Still, I found it interesting even though overly political statements tend to make me cringe. I doubt there were very many Bush fans in attendance, or if they were they probably walked out after Tony D'Souza called Bush the worst president ever. It's hard to argue with that statement, though. I got my copy of Whiteman autographed by D'Souza and I engaged him in a discussion on a murder case he was reporting on in Nicaragua involving an American who was convicted for murdering his ex-girlfriend even though he had a sufficient alibi. Quite a nice guy and clearly passionate about his writing and his beliefs. I wish I had a fraction of that intensity.

I killed an hour by reading and then lined up for a screening of Sarah Polley's Away From Her starring Julie Christie. Christie is quite good in the film, and it's a fine debut. The film suffers from being too sedate and meditative, though. Polley, being a young woman, also couldn't connect strongly enough with the plight of her older characters. She infused the characters with verve and life but the lived, shared life of these people just didn't translate. The film's pacing was too slow with Polley favoring too many dissolves as scene transitions. Polley displayed a lot of maturity in her first film, but perhaps it was just too mature.

For being out there all day my legs aren't too tired. I walked a lot. Being on campus also made me miss college badly. I looked at some of the students and wished I could be in their shoes except armed with the knowledge of life that I have now. Youth is certainly wasted on the young.

All in all, a good day. Tomorrow I'm driving back to Westwood for a second interview. That's a lot of driving in two days.

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