Texas Book Festival Pictures and Sessions – Part III


Adam Haslett on left; Mitchell Jackson on right

The second session I attended on Sunday featured authors Adam Haslett and Mitchell Jackson, each of whom spoke about and read from his latest work. In Haslett’s case that is his new novel Imagine Me Gone, and for Jackson it’s a nonfiction piece about an elderly uncle of his who “tutored” Jackson about the world of dealing drugs when the author was still in high school. Jackson also spoke about a novel of his own titled The Residue Years.

9780316261357_custom-a54f117fcf41de5d3273b29542ae135621110135-s400-c85In one sense, the two novels are very different: Haslett’s is about a middle class white family struggling with the mental illnesses of two of its members, and Jackson’s is about a lower class black family with a history of drug dealing and prison sentences. But in another sense, in addition to being autobiographical, the two books share a common theme, and this is why Haslett and Jackson were paired together for a session that can be titled “Inheritance: On family history and inheritance in fiction.”

In addition to Imagine Me Gone, a novel that took five years to complete, Adam Haslett is also the author of one other novel, Union Atlantic (winner of the Lambda Literary Award and a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize), and the Pulitzer Prize winning short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here. Mitchell Jackson’s The Residue Years (winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence) is his only novel, but he is also the author of Oversoul, an e-book collection of short stories and essays.

16059455Interestingly, both books begin with the end of their story. Haslett says that he actually did write his book in chronological order before turning Imagine Me Gone into a flashback novel by placing its ending at the beginning of the book – something he did, he says, in order to create a “sense of unease throughout the whole book.” The end of Jackson’s The Residue Years began life as a short story that the author decided to explore a little more deeply by turning it into a novel. It makes a certain kind of sense that he would begin with the story and use flashback to further explore the story’s characters and motivations.

(Those interested in learning more about Imagine Me Gone can do so by coming back to Book Chase on Friday for my review of the novel. I also plan to read and review Jackson’s The Residue Years as soon as my library locates a copy for me.)

Texas Book Festival Pictures and Sessions – Part II


From left to right: Jennifer Haigh, Amanda Eyre Ward (moderator), and Virginia Reeves

My second stop at the book festival on Saturday morning was at a session titled “Power Lines” featuring authors Jennifer Haigh (Heat and Light) and Virginia Reeves (Work Like Any Other).  I read Work Like Any Other a few weeks ago but knew very little about Haigh’s novel before the session began.

The session was titled “Power Lines” because both books have themes relating to energy.  The Virginia Reeves novel is about a man who decides to electrify his rural Alabama farm by illegally tapping in to the newfangled power lines that the state has erected near his property.  When a lineman is electrocuted after discovering the tie-in, the farmer and the man who helped him with the work both go to prison.  This is one of my favorite books of 2016 and it was a treat to hear Reeves talk about it.

The Jennifer Haigh novel is about horizontal drilling and fracking for natural gas in Pennsylvania and how that innovative process affects several different groups: landowners, oil companies, environmentalists, etc. and seems to be told from the points-of-view of each of the different groups. I snagged an autographed copy of Heat and Light later in the afternoon, and I’m looking forward to the day it works its way to the top of my TBR heap – hopefully that will be sometime in early December.

I always bring a little digital voice recorder with me to these sessions but seldom remember to turn the darn thing on.  I remembered this time, but started a couple of minutes late and then it happened: the batteries died on me about five minutes before the session ended. Sometimes I think I’m jinxed.  I haven’t listened to the recording yet to see how it turned out but I’m not optimistic that it is usable because Ms. Reeves decided to go without a microphone and used her “middle schoolteacher” voice instead.  We’ll see how that worked out…

Texas Book Festival Pictures & Sessions – Part I

It’s been overcast in Austin since yesterday morning, and we got a little light rain around eleven this morning, but I managed to stay relatively dry during my walk from the Central Presbyterian Church back to the capitol building (a walk of something like a quarter of a mile).  I stayed with my planned schedule for the most part, but the overlaps soon started to catch up with me and I ended up improvising a little by the time the third group of sessions was beginning.

I started the day in Central Presbyterian for a presentation by Tracy Chee, Michael Eric Dyson, Meg Medina, Susan Faludi, and Joe McGinnis Jr.


Left to right: McGinnis, Faludi, Medina, Dyson, and Chee

Of the five books presented by this group, I’ve only read Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom, a frank memoir about learning from her father, whom she had barely spoken to in the past twenty-five years, that he had undergone gender-change surgery and was now legally a female.

Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens and she discussed The Reader, the first book in a new five-book series that she is writing about a bunch of cowboy pirates.

Michael Eric Dyson has known Barack Obama since the early nineties and talked about his latest book, The Black Presidency, a book he says that the Obama people are not particularly happy about because it includes a discussion of the several ways that the President has let down the black voters who supported him so strongly in two elections.


Left to right: McGinnis, Faludi, and Medina

Meg Medina’s novel, Burn Baby Burn focuses on what it was like to live in New York City in 1977 during the Son of Sam’s reign of terror.  Her 17-year-old heroine fits comfortably into the serial killer’s target-group but has so many family problems going on that getting murdered by a maniac is just another potential problem on her list.

Joe McGinnis Jr. is the son of bestselling author Joe McGinnis who is probably best remembered for true-crime books such as Blind Faith and Fatal Vision (the senior McGinnis died in 2014).  McGinnis discussed his Carousel Court, a novel that explores the financial devastation of one California couple by the recent housing crash.

This first session was the perfect way to start off the day.  There was a lot of laughter (particularly during the Dyson and Medina presentations) and a lot of serious discussion about some the issues of the day.  And I got a bonus author in the person of Mr. Dyson who seems to have been a late addition to the original lineup.

Texas Book Festival, Here I Come


Susan Faludi

I’m checked into a hotel just south of Austin, and I’m all ready to head out in the morning for the first session of this year’s Texas Book Festival.  I plan to start the day with a ten a.m. session being held in a downtown church near the capitol building, Central Presbyterian, that will feature a group of four Kirkus Prize finalists: Susan Faludi, Traci Chee, Joe McGinnis Jr., and Meg Medina.

I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Susan Faludi because her book In the Darkroom actually did win the $50,000 Kirkus Prize for nonfiction.  The book chronicles Faludi’s efforts to rekindle her relationship with her estranged father shortly after he had undergone surgery and treatments to change his gender.  I read the book earlier this year and found it fascinating.  Faludi’s father lived a remarkable life even before he changed genders well into his old age, and it is easy to see why he and his daughter lived separate lives for so long before ever making a serious effort to reconcile their differences before time ran out on her father.

Neither of the other two Kirkus Prize winners, fiction winner C.E. Morgan for The Sport of Kings, nor the winner of the prize for “young people’s literature” Jason Reynolds (for As Brave as You) are part of this presentation.

I plan to post pictures and comments over the weekend but that all depends on what seems to be a rather iffy WiFi connection here in my room, so it may be next week.  Can’t wait to get started…

On Prepping for the 2016 Texas Book Festival

tbf-2016-posterThe 2016 Texas Book Festival will be history this time next week, and I’m not at all prepared for it yet. I usually spend at least a couple of hours ahead of time preparing two separate schedules: a first-choice schedule that I will follow if everything breaks perfectly for me and a backup schedule that I can jump in and out of if sessions go longer than expected or any back-to-back sessions on the first schedule prove to be too far apart to allow me to make both of them.

As of this moment, I’ve got part of next Saturday mapped out and haven’t even looked at the Sunday sessions to see what’s on offer for the second day of the festival. I’m a little concerned that (based on what I’ve noticed about Saturday) there may be fewer outdoor sessions this year than in years past. That’s only important because it is easier to rush from one presentation tent to the next than it is to get indoors from outdoors. The indoor sessions are held inside the Texas Capitol building itself and the lines to get through all the associated security can be a little long – and timing is everything at the Texas Book Festival because no matter how many authors you see, you miss ten times that many. So many authors, so many books, so little time…can be exhausting.

Saturday is looking pretty good, though, as I’m finding that several of the authors I’ve already read in 2016 will be presenting. It appears that, with a little luck, I’ll be able to see Susan Faludi (In the Darkroom), Ottessa Moshfegh (Eileen), Virginia Reeves (Work Like Any Other), Diane Guerrero (In the Country We Love: My Family Divided), and Skip Hollandsworth (The Midnight Assassin). And that’s just from what I’ve seen of Saturday, so I’m hoping that more will turn up as I make my way through the rest of the schedule. I’ve also spotted sessions dedicated to short story writers, Kirkus Prize Finalists, the O. Henry Prize, and Tracking Terrorism, so Saturday is going to be a very full day.

Now I need to study the rest of the Saturday schedule, the Sunday schedule, and start thinking about a hotel. Last year, like every year, I drove to Austin on Friday without having located a room and ended up staying 50 miles north of the festival in a little Texas town I’d never heard of. It worked out well enough, but my house is only 150 miles from Austin, so it seemed a little crazy to drive another 200 miles over the two days I was there.

New Nonfiction Book Coming from Pat Conroy in October

Pat Conroy

I have a huge smile on my face right now and I’m fidgeting in my chair.  And it’s all because I just stumbled upon some very unexpected news:

Pat Conroy, who died of pancreatic cancer this past March 4, will continue to speak to his readers and fans for a little while longer.

According to publisher Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, a new nonfiction book is coming October 25, on what would have been the eve of Pat’s 71st birthday.

The book will include letters, interviews and magazine articles, the release said. There will be tributes from Conroy’s friends and an introduction by Conroy’s widow, novelist Cassandra King.
The selections include Conroy’s thoughts on his favorite reads, exercise and the loss of friends.
Before he died in March, Conroy had also submitted fewer than 200 pages of a new novel, “Storms of Aquarius,” the release said. The book is about four friends coming of age during the Vietnam War.

And there’s more good news involving a new Pat Conroy Literary Festival, the first of which will be held in Beaufort, South Carolina, from October 20 to 23.  (The only thing I find odd about the timing of the festival is that it ends two days before the new book is to be published…and that seems a little counterproductive and frustrating to attendees.)

Please do click on this link because it includes links to a whole lot more new information (and tribute information) involving Mr. Conroy.  The man was especially beloved in his home state of South Carolina, of course, but he had admirers around the world and this news is going to be greeted with joy everywhere it is heard.