When you finally get to the Texas Book Festival

2015 texas book festIt took me ten years to get to the Texas Book Festival and, apparently, Margaret (fucking) Atwood. So I saw her twice.

First on Friday at the Overheard taping with Evan Smith. Then on Saturday in the House Chamber to officially start the festival.

Atwood discussed the seedy origins of The Heart Goes Last, her contribution to Katie Paterson’s Future Library, and her obsession with things like the Salem witch trials (she has an ancestor that was hanged—and lived).

She teased Evan Smith when he tried to put a number to the years she has been writing. Everything from sex robots to conservative politician bashing came up, and I learned about Zombies, Run!, in case I should ever decide to run.

My mission was simple enough after seeing Atwood. I picked out my session by names I recognized: Elizabeth McCracken, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Adeena Reitberger, and Vincent Scarpa. I learned about writers I have not read: Elizabeth Strout, Sarah Gerard, and Alexandra Kleeman. I went to a few panels, a LitCrawl reading, and skipped many things I had bookmarked.

If you haven’t been, go. Go and buy books and enjoy the excitement of reading.

This Texas summer starts with water


I remember looking up through several feet of water and being able to make out the surface but not knowing how to get to the air above.

It was summertime and we were visiting family in North Carolina. I’d never seen trees so tall or forest so thick. I’d never not been able to see the sun rise and set on the horizon. We had driven out to the ocean and I was pulled out by the high tide with my sister and a cousin. I don’t remember who brought me back to the shore.

Often, I will think about that day and remember the sand. I’ve never really liked beaches or the ocean, or lakes for that matter.

The month of May is when summer starts, according to the academic calendar some of us still live by and who others eulogize.

This May, I read Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I inhaled both books — my favorite way of reading.

What captures me now is how water plays a role in both books and certainly played a role in this year’s month of May. I can’t help but imagine Mr. Wind-Up sitting on Mr. Barbour’s boat. Or perhaps Mr. Barbour would find peace down in Mr. Okada’s well.

I imagine both of them watching the water rise, passively. As passively as I reacted to the tornado warning in Austin or the water pool in the yard when it rained over Memorial weekend.

The importance of the right purse

anne cline

There’s a scene in a movie that I can’t place (maybe you can help me here). An older woman dumps out the purse of a younger woman. The younger woman is hoping to become the older woman’s mentee or perhaps employee. The older/more experienced woman says, “If I had found wrappers in your purse, I would have sent you home.”

I try to never have empty wrappers in my bag.

Every once in while, I re-read Laura Goode’s article Stay Gold on The Rumpus. In it, Goode eulogizes her twenties and writes, “I will tell you that I have lived them like an endless conversation, like a depth charge, like a rapprochement or discord with the self, like the way you dance alone with your roommate in her bedroom or yours, like one big sensory buffet, like whole-body-shaking laughter and notebooks, notebooks, notebooks.”

In my early twenties, I tried to destroy myself. When I stopped trying to destroy myself, I thought I knew who I was and who I wanted to be.

So it surprised me when I recently decided that I needed to have a purse.

It surprised me that I wanted this purse to say, “I am a woman.”

My purses must be able to fit a book. Now they must fit at least two books. They must hold my water bottle. They must have a cross body strap in addition to handles that can also be pulled to the shoulder. The purse must say how graceful I am. They must help me look older. They must fit my lunch. They must fit the bag I keep inside all of my bags with all of the loose ends. Band-aids, Chapstick, nail clippers, ibuprofen, floss. The list goes on.

It was brought to my attention that I have many purses. And indeed, I have more purses than pairs of shoes. Totes, clutches…the kinds of purses exceed my knowledge. One for every occasion; however, I have always found it disconcerting that each purse says something different. I have never been able to settle into one “kind” of purse and have always felt that this inability represents my inability to define myself. I am somewhere in between the tom-boy and the simple girl that does not know how to dress herself.

God Emperor of Dune: Frank Herbert

god emperor of duneI have Dune fatigue, it is official. My desire to read is equally fueled by Herbert’s ability to catch a reader and by simply wanting to find out what will happen. Is it accurate to merit a book by your need to finish the book? Can your obsessive need to find out what happens override the quality of the story?

Yes, I think so. How else can you explain soap operas and those evening teen dramas? Roswell and Gilmore Girls. And perhaps, Dune. The Dune world is losing my interest. I’m driven by a need to know people and the people are second place to the evolution of the human species. That’s not really interesting to me. I have been reading at a crazy pace, so at the very least I’ll take some time off before deciding to read the fifth book.

Children of Dune: Frank Herbert

dune three

I realized that I don’t like the godly point of view of some of these books because I’m just as bored as the prescient characters. Herbert has me fooled! By the time of this writing I am more than halfway done with book four. Dune and Children of Dune seem quite alike whereas Dune Messiah and God Emperor of Dune are similar in style to me.

But perhaps all of this is due to the physical books I purchased — their designs and shape follow this formula of mine.

Children of Dune brought me back into the layered plots and unknowns of book one. I was excited that Ghanima was female, but was disappointed that she fell aside as Herbert kept the reader with Leto II. At least, Jessica was back to beguile us with her plots and her grace.

I am starting to wonder why Herbert jumps so much time from one book to the next. Did he know his life was too short to go into the depths that he wanted? Why couldn’t we have more time with the characters? Alas, maybe I will become fanatical enough to read the books by his son+writer person.