Saturday, April 24, 2010

Plugging in at the Book Fest

I don't know what I'd do if I lived in another town; to me, it's not spring until the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books hits. I have no idea why I love this event so much...the crowds are thick and slow, there is never enough time to get to enough panels, and it's usually hot as hell.

Today was one of the best Book Fest days that I can remember. Great weather, James Ellroy performed some crazy magic trick for my son, and I got to attend thought-provoking panels.

First was the panel, "Rebooting Culture: Narrative and Information in the New Age," moderated by David Ulin, the LAT's book editor, with some serious thinkers in the realm of literature and our fragmented culture. A point of contention was whether computer culture would a) make the idea of intellectual property a relic, b) make us cling to taut, realistic narratives, or c) kill reading altogether. (Nicholas Carr, one of the panelists, wrote the great Atlantic Monthly essay, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"--sadly, I side with Carr.)

The next panel was moderated by my husband, Scott Timberg, and included Aimee Bender, Lev Grossman, and Victor LaValle. It was a pretty serious discussion of genre, realism, and fantasy. Bender is always a great presence at these things -- she can bring up Kafka and the TV show The Bionic Woman in the same sentence and make it all make sense. Grossman was very smart and funny (his book sounds like an adult Harry Potter...with sex). LaValle was so impressive that I had to read a few chapters of his book, Big Machine. Afraid I'm hooked.

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