Meanwhile, in California… The LA Times Festival of Books

by Julia Jackson

1. Attack of the book nerds. 2. Tod Goldberg wonders if these things are giant breast pumps.

Over 150,000 people converged this past weekend at USC’s campus in downtown Los Angeles for the 18th annual LA Times Festival of Books. A two-day affair, the event featured food trucks, exhibitors, family fun (apparently Lisa Loeb is doing the children’s music thing these days), and readings and panels with hundreds of writers and industry insiders. The weather was sunny and the crowd was varied; there were the expected literary hipsters, sweater-wearing book nerds, and sweaty genre-writer wanna-be’s wearing hats that said WRITER (“Finally, a reason to wear my writer cap!”), but there were also plenty of people who would look more natural holding a meth pipe than a book. God bless LA.

1. Jerry Stahl does not smile. 2. James Greer plays with his water bottle.

As members of the press, we got free reign to all the panels i.e. air conditioning. Highlights from our two favorites:

“Looking for Trouble”, with Paul Tremblay, Tod Goldberg, James Greer, & Jerry Stahl; moderated by Carolyn Kellogg.

  • Tod Goldberg hypothesized that the title of Tremblay’s book, Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye, is also a popular activity at USC frat parties.
  • All panelists except for Tremblay admitted to having been arrested.
  • “Writing fucked up might involve narcotics… or it might just involve being a fucked up person,” said Jerry Stahl, who smiled exactly zero times during the panel, like a good little former junkie.
  • “I write so I can get away from myself. Most writers hate themselves. At least I do,” said James Greer, who fidgeted nervously the entire panel, like a good little agoraphobic.

1. Jess Walter, living the dream: getting paid to be a professional smartass. 2. Diana Wagman: not sure why her agent made her delete the chapters from the iguana’s point of view in The Care & Feeding of Exotic Pets.

“With a Sideways Glance”, featuring Jess Walter, Diana Wagman, Fiona Maazel, & David Abrams; moderated by Chris Daley.

  • The power went out mid-panel and the entire auditorium went dark, but Fional Maazel kept right on rolling (ahem, badass), explaining that she started writing because she was a chronic liar with a bad memory . Once she put the lying down on the page, she was able to eliminate it from her real life.
  • Diana Wagman figured out how to write about the violent scenes in her book by throwing herself around her office.
  • An audience member with an especially genius question asked, “What do you agree and disagree with most in Stephen King’s book On Writing?” to which Jess Walter replied, “I didn’t read it, but I did hear he said not to use adverbs, which is something I agree with… wholeheartedly.”

1. Fiona Maazel wrote Woke Up Lonely because she’s “pathologically fixated on loneliness.” 2. Technical difficulties happen, even at prestigious & expensive private universities.

For more on everything related to the Festival of Books, go here.


— -Julia Jackson is an internet ghost and the contributing editor for The Outlet.

Sunny Katz is a fucking cyborg, and provided assistance and LOLs.

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