Texas Book Festival – Day 1: 2014

DSC03383Last weekend’s Texas Book Festival featured over 250 authors, many of them from the Lone Star State. Sessions were free to attend. Proceeds from merchandise, donations, and vendor fees benefit the state’s public libraries. The festival was centered around the Texas State Capitol. Huge tents were set up on the surrounding streets for additional sessions, live music, cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, and vendors. Two downtown churches were used for sessions this year since The Paramount Theater was reserved for the Austin Film Festival.

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Nixon: The weekend started off with a very interesting discussion of Richard Nixon’s presidency. The moderator was journalist and UT alumni Robert Draper, whose grandfather was Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski. John Dean, White House counsel from 1970-73, has published The Nixon DefenseDouglas Brinkley, history professor at Rice University, co-authored The Nixon Tapes with Luke Niktor, an expert on the famous Nixon tapes (which can be heard or read at nixontapes.org).  The panelists described Nixon as “diabolically pragmatic” and an “all-purpose insulter.” The audience questions about Dean’s wife’s role in Watergate and an alleged sex scandal were almost as entertaining as the panel discussion.

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Lidia Bastianich on Cooking: Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich talked about her early childhood in northeastern Italy and her experiences as an immigrant. She became a friend of Julia Child, which led to hosting her own show on PBS. She now owns six restaurants and is dean of a New York culinary school, La Scuola di Eataly.

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Lawrence Wright: After reading his previous book about Scientology, this author was on my must-see list for the 2014 festival. Lawrence Wright‘s newest book is Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David. He spoke briefly about the complicated history of the Middle East leading up to the Six Day War in 1967. He observed that Carter, Begin, and Sadat were “three religious men who came together to solve a problem that religion had largely caused.” I’m definitely adding his latest book to my reading list.

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Valerie Plame Wilson on Vanessa Pierson: You might remember her: Valerie Plame Wilson was the wife of diplomat Joseph Wilson who was outed as a CIA operative in 2003. She is now the co-author of two spy novels about fictional heroine Vanessa Pierson. However, most of the discussion and audience questions revolved around “Plamegate” and the subsequent lawsuits.

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