Texas Book Festival 2005

Well, I had an elaborate entry about my Austin book journey in mind but I'm tired tonight, on my second glass of St. Genevieve chardonnay, and I plan to write a lot about the Image conference later this week. So, here are my personal highlights from the Texas Book Festival:

1. Ararat Middle Eastern restaurant: This is aunt Denise's favorite restaurant and now I know why. It is a tiny, cozy place, replete with ethnic tapestries covering the walls, belly dancers, and freaking good food. Denise, her boyfriend Mike, and I brought our own red wine (as is Ararat's liquor policy), split a pomegranate lassi and Ararat's Mini Combo for appetizers; the Mini Combo consisted of hummus, baba ganouj, maust museer, and tabouli. Then we ordered our own massive-sized entrees: I had Sizzling Salmon, Denise had that night's salmon special, and Mike had Sizzling Lamb. Although happily fed with to-go boxes on the table we shared a dessert of stuffed figs drizzled with pomegranate-honey sauce, sipped Turkish coffee, and nibbled a strange pastry called Lokum. I liked this hideaway so much that Johnny and I are making a stop by Austin immediately after our 3rd anniversary trip to Gruene, TX this coming January specifically to visit Denise and Ararat. Johnny will love me even more after he eats Sizzling Lamb.

2. Denise's house: I feel right at home and Denise is a lovely hostess. Upon my arrival at her house on Friday night, "my room" smelled of frankincense which she thoughtfully burned that evening, and my room remained fragrant all weekend. On Saturday night we recuperated from the day's events by staying home, Denise whipped up amazing leftover-Ararat-salmon-quesadillas, we drank Yellow Tail chardonnay, and watched the Born Into Brothels documentary.

3. Listening to Sufjan Stevens's Illinoise CD all weekend: He is an amazing songwriter; I need that CD!

4. Flipnotics's vanilla frappes: These beverages use espresso and put Starbucks Frappucinos to serious shame. Frappes are a ritual for myself and Denise every time I visit her in Austin.

5. The Book Festival: For word-lovers such as we are, the Texas Book Festival is simply wonderful. It is free, too, except for the purchased books which are inevitable. Denise and I chose to attend the following events:

Mothers Like No Others with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (one of my favorite authors), Marrit Ingman, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, and Linda Armstrong Kelly. I was pretty geeked up to be in the same room with Chitra Divakaruni and thrilled to discover she teaches creative writing at The University of Houston. Perhaps I should go back to college!

Readings by Marion Winik. She is a great writer and very funny though at one point in between reading her essays she declared her conclusion that there is no God, she is an athiest. Denise leaned over and said, "Is she offending you?" I said no, it just makes me sad. And it does; she cannot offend me for I know without a doubt God exists but it saddened me greatly for such a charming woman and talented writer to be so deceived and to in turn deceive a whole room of her devoted readers.

Laughs-a-minute by gubernatorial candidate/author/musician, Kinky Friedman. He's no Conservative but he makes me laugh.

Weird Texas with Wesley Treat and Rob Riggs. This was the most fascinating event we attended. I was browsing a local Barnes and Noble yesterday after Church and it just so happened Wesley and Rob were scheduled to be there for another reading! (or so I thought) I stuck around for an hour, scoured the numerous shelves with a small caramel machiato in hand, and bought the current issues of Poets and Writers and The Believer. After an hour I realized the guys were just doing a signing and I left disappointed.

Writing in Unreaderly Times. This may have been my favorite book festival event even though it featured writers I'd never heard of - Craig Clevenger, Kevin Smokler, K.M. Soehnlein, Alexander Parsons, and Justin Cronin. The panel was moderated by author Karen Olsson. I was most intrigued by Craig Clevenger - I want to read his first book, The Contortionist's Handbook, very soon.

6. A quick trip to the "Texas literary mecca, Bookpeople:" (quote by Craig Clevenger) It is another personal ritual of mine to pay homage to Bookpeople during my Austin visits. I purchased 3 boxes of Hem frankincense, the new issue of Image (I thought my subscription was up but my copy arrived this week. I gave the extra copy to our friend Thom), a tin box of Chimes ginger chews, and a soy cappuccino for the road, bound for Houston. I did very well on my purchase quantity and for good reason..........

7. My Texas Book Festival purchases:

Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times compiled by Kevin Smokler (includes an essay by Denise's friend, Neal Pollack)

Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out with the Diapers by Marrit Ingman (yet another lady who thinks Tom Cruise's postpartum depression views are idiotic)

Queen of Dreams: A Novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Weird Texas by Wesley Treat and Rob Riggs (autographed, even)

I hope the Texas Book Festival will be an annual event for Denise, myself, my Mom, and even Genevieve in a stroller one day!

No comments: