After a busy and thoroughly enjoyable Saturday, I spent a full Sunday at the Texas Book Festival as well. TBF organizers couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect weekend, although the crowds seemed a little lighter this year. Perhaps attendees were spread out over more sessions, but I’m guessing this was because there weren’t really any big name celebrity authors in town.
A Most Imperfect Union: This session featuring Amherst College literature professor Ilan Stavans was not what I had expected, but was interesting nonetheless. He described himself as a contrarian whose views are linked to his experience as an immigrant. I particularly liked his belief that readers don’t choose books; instead, books choose readers.
The Producer: Norman Lear was the featured speaker for this session in the House Chamber of the State Capitol. He read an excerpt from his new memoir, Even This I Get to Experience. Lear has accomplished a lot in his 92 years, but he is probably best known as a producer for TV shows such as All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and Maude. He talked about his difficult childhood and how his relationship with his father paralleled that of Archie Bunker and his TV son-in-law Michael.
How to Win Friends or Manipulate People: Local comedian Owen Egerton moderated this unusual pairing of authors. Jeffrey Kluger from TIME magazine has written The Narcissist Next Door. Christian Rudder worked for OKCupid (now owned by match.com) and has authored Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking). They discussed how the internet has amplified “influencer winners” and now everyone is their own publicist.
That’s Not the Guy: This session about unjust convictions was full of surprises for me (I wasn’t reading the session descriptions too closely by this time!). The moderator turned out to be Mike Farrell, the actor-turned-political-activist who played BJ Hunnicutt on the TV show M*A*S*H. I also realized that Michael Morton was a panelist. He is the man from nearby Georgetown who was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2011 after spending almost 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife. The other panelist was Columbia Law School professor James Liebman, who documented the wrongful execution of Carlos DeLuna in The Wrong Carlos. Their advice to address these types of social justice issues: get involved in politics at the local level.
Texas on the Table: My 2014 TBF concluded on a lighter note with a cooking demonstration by chef Terry Thompson-Anderson. She prepared Shiner Bock Cheddar Cheese Soup and a salad. No samples though!
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