Like I might’ve mentioned, early March was crazy-making. Between five days at a a major SCA event (got home on a Sunday night) and the 5th Annual Tucson Festival of Books, it was nuts (I volunteered for it on the Friday–can you get carpal tunnel syndrome from opening 800 tote bags?–after that Sunday), we were pooped. But it was fun!
I’m not going to say much about the Festival, only it was COLD on Saturday with sporadic rainshowers…not that it kept anyone away (they just dressed appropriately), there was an actual time slot during the two days I attended (heresy! well, I wanted to make sure I got in to see the Stephan Pastis talk in the next time slot), and it was great.
(Not the ‘usual’ March weather for the Festival — but thrown on a hoodie and long pants, maybe carry an umbrella, and yer good ta go!)
UA sponsored “Science City,” so there was even more to see (and a lot of “off-mall” exhibits and demos in Physics, Computer Science, Mirror Lab). I got buttons from and got to talk to a great lady from Heifers International (and picked up a very granola cookie-like cow patty, used for cooking fires in Armenia), etc., etc. If you live anywhere NEAR Tucson and don’t go to the Festival of Books, well, it’s your own damned fault.
And these are the talks I attended:
Savonarola and Segesser: They Changed History, for Heaven’s Sake. Two religious men, one a nut and the other a Jesuit missionary here in Sonora. I still don’t feel any sympathy for Savonarola (he’s the guy who preached against the material world and instigated “Bonfires of the Vanities” in northern Italy…he was eventually hoisted on his own petard, or hanged and burned, or something similar), but Dr. Weinstein, his biographer, has an interest in 15th-16th C. Italian street fighting — how cool is that?!?
(Oh, hey, he lives in our neighborhood, too…Dr. Classen, not Padre Segesser!)
Tombstone Twosome: Josephine & Wyatt Earp. The presenters are the definitive biographers of the Earps, particularly Josephine. She was Jewish…I didn’t know that. Bruce did. How did that happen? (He said he’d watched a program on the Earps on PBS.)
How Italian Food Conquered the World. This was very cool. There’s a pretty good (and RECENT!) timeline for this, starting in WWII, when GIs brought home pizza, when movies about Italy and movies directed by Italians spread the romance of and food interest in the country (yes, even that scene in Lady and the Tramp helped), and when produced-in-Italy foods (like their wines) began to experience world-wide exportation. It is not especially Italian to have a candle sticking out of the neck of a raffia-wrapped wine bottle. In less than a half-century, Italian food may be the most popular “foreign food” world-wide.
Paranormal Romance: Why People Love Vampires. This is probably the meh-iest panel I’ve ever attended at the Festival. The audience was very familiar with the writers, and to an outsider (like me), it seemed very cliquish and in all honesty, not very interesting. Discussion ran out well before the time allotted (this never happens, and usually the Q&A period is tiny), so Q&A (and, “why I like…”) took up most of the time. I went because this was the only “vampire” panel this year. Unfortunately, the “romance” part really trumped it.
Vodka Distilled. No, I wasn’t on the tasting panel, but I now know the rudiments of hosting a vodka tasting, and how vodkas made from different bases (rye, wheat, corn, grapes) have their own distinct characters. Very neat to see four or five vodkas being sampled (and how to properly sample them, even if you have to open your mouth like a grouper) and to see some vodka cocktails being mixed. Neatest thing: in barwear, there is a new, cute-as-hell stemmed glass called the “Nick and Nora.” (I’d start drinking for that alone!)
Vodka: it’s not just for a cheap drunk anymore.
That was Saturday…five panels. And you wonder why I only attended four on Sunday?
Sunday “Cheese” School. Better than Sunday School! Cooking with cheese…lots of it. The author gave all sorts of tips to make swell grilled cheese sandwiches (those even the hoi polloi in the audience (me) got to sample (woohoo! cheese on the inside AND outside), and all kinds of variations on mac’n’cheese (that Bruce, as a designated Taster, got to sample…but he left some for me). He even got to sit with Channel 4’s Kristi Tedesco…yep, another ooh! aah! moment.
The Art in the Art of Storytelling in Picturebooks. Three childen’s illustrators, Jerry Pinkney, Floyd Cooper and Matt Phelan told about their work in the field. Interesting and involving, only we were camped out there to see…
Fear, Intrigue, & Humor: Engaging Kids as Readers. R.L. Stine, local dude Adam Rex and new novelist Stephan Pastis played to a packed auditorium. Stine is the old man of the bunch and just as fun and funny as the new kids. Adam Rex has just worked illustrating a book by Neil Gaiman, and Pastis is goofy: who else writes a book about a kid detective and his polar bear sidekick? This panel was a stitch (it helps when the moderator of the panel says something to the effect of “We’d like to thank Scholastic for bringing us R.L., Simon and Shuster for Stepan, and Schwinn for Adam.” Adam lives in the West University Neighborhood, maybe a half-mile from campus.)
Pearls Freaks Out. Okay, it’s the last set of panels (4 PM Sunday) of a very long weekend, and we damn near didn’t get seats for this! The Arizona Daily Star Pavilion (read, tent) opened up its back and sides to let more people stand and see Pastis himself regale the crowd with a slide show, anecdotes (“Screw you, Pastis!”–Jeff Keane), and lots of laughs. Very, very cool that he was introduced by the Star’s editorial cartoonist Dave Fitsimmons, and that he acknowledged Bob Weber, Jr. (Slylock Fox‘s dad) and one of the dudes who writes Baby Blues, both lurking in the audience.
And then — during the book-signing afterward, he autographed the newsprint copy of my Fourth Place (“loser”) entry in the Washington Post‘s Style Invitational “Mashup Contest” from a few years ago. AND HE DREW A LEEDLE CROC ON EET, TOO! So. Very. Cool. Thank you, Mr. Pastis.
(Imagine a leedle Larry above the strip. Yeah, that’s it.)
YOU ARE INVITED TO THE 6th ANNUAL TUCSON FESTIVAL OF BOOKS, MARCH 15-16, 2014! Be there!