Monday, October 12, 2009

Southern Festival of Books, 2009

We walked many miles, we got lost, but eventually we made our way to the Southern Festival of Books (a celebration of the written word) and we had a great time. But we are resolved that next year? Next year we will spend the night like sane people. We will get a hotel and we will map out a strategy and we will attend more sessions, see more writers, take more time. Because, people? There is a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover at the Southern Festival of Books.

We left Paducah at 9:00 (or thereabouts) Saturday morning and, of course, the first order of business upon arriving in NashVegas was, most importantly, lunch. Which for me usually means Noshville and Saturday was no exception. I had the mushroom and barley soup and the toasted walnut and orange and salad. My Mom (right) and aunt Patsy posed for a photo:

And, no, they didn't call each other the night before and agree on striped turtle necks and jackets, that shit just happens all on its own. After lunch, we were in for a VERY long walk to the festival (owing to I forgot to check about were perzactly the plaza is located beyond just "downtown"). Held in War Memorial Plaza and the Tennessee state capitol in NashVegas, the SFOB occupies a fairly sprawling venue better than a city block long that encompasses the capitol legislative chambers at one end, and the library at the other. The event features three days of rotating (for the most part hour-long) sessions with reads from the authors attending, a signing section, books for sale, and book-related vendor tents, among other things. You see Mom and Patsy here mounting the steps to the plaza, the capitol in the background.:
To their left where the columns are, one climbs another set of large steps to another elevated outdoor plaza where the books are sold and signings take place, behind them the venue is bisected by another street and bordered opposite the capitol by the library. Ahead of them you see some of the vendor and food tents. There are other stages that feature musicians and various demonstrations including, this year, cooking. The bulk of the rotating sessions are held in the legislative chambers of the capitol which are woody, cavernous, echoey and historic.

After a lot of dithering, we realized where we needed to be was in the library in order to see a screening of "That Evening Sun" a film starring Hal Holbrook based on a short story by William Gay, a writer with the potential to join the great southern writers, in my opinion (read an excerpt from Gay's novel "Twilight" [obviously not THAT Twilight] here). According to the schedule, not only would the Director of "That Evening Sun", Scott Teems, be present for a talk and questions, but that William himself would too. This, then, was my pick for the coveted 1:00PM activity. For whatever reason, SFOB planners tend to stage all the biggest names at 1:00PM, in other words, at the same time, so girl has to choose. (Please stop this practice, SFOB.) Choosing William and the film meant we had to forgo Elizabeth Berg (owie).

I was expecting, hoping actually, for a good movie and was surprised with a great one. "That Evening Sun" tells the story of a Tennessee farmer, Abner Meecham, (played by Hal Holbrook) who decides to check out of living death in the nursing home and return to his remote Tenneee farm to live out his few remaining years on his own terms. Instead of the quiet homecoming Meecham expects, he returns to find his son has rented his home place to a family of ne'er-do-wells, headed by one Alonzo Choate. The film then tells the story of the face-off between Choate and Meecham. Meecham sets up camp in the tenant's quarters and, as they say, it's "on". See the trailer here.

I've never had the experience of seeing a really good movie and then having the director and, in this case, screenplay writer, present to talk about his (or her) process and thoughts afterward. It was a real treat. I got a huge charge out of Teems sort of pounding the table and describing his passion for authenticity during casting saying he declared, "All southern accents in the film must be AUTHENTIC--or we're sunk!" (the accents were authentic, actually.) Here's a really badly lit photo of Scott Teems (left) and his interviewer.

Sadly, for whatever reason, William Gay himself was not present (wah!! What gives, William?). Still, the talk and q and a was fascinating. That whole experience alone was worth the trip for me.

Afterward, while visiting the main tent for tee-shirt and poster swag, I glanced up to see none other than Silas House shopping for his own tee-shirt right next to me. "You're Silas House!" I sort of squealed, sticking out my hand which he shook saying, "Why, yes. Yes I am."

Of couse, photo!

Silas was one of those rare people who sort of oozes goodness. Alas, I don't believe writers often get treated like rock stars (unless you're JK Rowling).

But they should, don't you think?


Jeanna said...

Of course they should.

met said...

Silas looks like a wonderful person. Great report on what was obviously a fantastic day!!

Suz said...

Great report. It's October 8 - 10 next year (I confirmed that by email just now). I may do something insane like make firm plans to attend. (As in, plane tix from Denver . . . )