My panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books ("California: The Great Experiment") was well-attended by an enthusiastic crowd that asked many provocative questions, provocatively answered by Bill Deverell, D.J. Waldie and Mathew Jaffe. LA Observed contributor Erika Schickel also moderated a panel, but for her the scene in the author green room is hard to beat. She posts at Native Intelligence:
It is the Peyton Place of the west coast literary world. Here people mingle and chat, rub up against and run into each other. The mood is felicitous, but there is also intrigue as it brings together disparate voices and points of view from every corner of the writing world. Where else can you see the salt-of-the-earth, environmental writer (and LAO contributor) Jenny Price one minute, then turn around to watch Maria Shriver emerge from her luxury SUV limo with her crazy doll hair? (Seriously, I think Maria had her hair done by the same Emerald City beautician who styled the Cowardly Lion).
Where else can you hear James Ellroy refer to someone as "walking syphillis"? My friend Mark Netter (a huge Ellroy fan) asked the expressive author what he was currently working on. "The Big Hurt." It's an examination of my checkered romantic past", (Note: I am paraphrasing here) Mr. Ellroy proclaimed, as one of his exes stood in line for a sandwich not far away. Wouldn't that be a great panel, "James Ellroy: My Dark Heart"? But wait, here's Steve Almond and Mark Sarvas within spitting distance of each other, causing a frisson of excitement for anyone who has read the accounts of their famous feud. Twice I found myself gossiping like a fishwife, then being made aware that the subject of the conversation was sitting behind me.
Of course, it goes both ways. As I was doing some nervous pre-panel primping in the ladies room, I overheard one gal say to another, "Oh, well I have an Erika Schickel story for you ..." as they walked out the door, clearly unaware I was standing there.
Where else would you see Tommy Lasorda loading up in the same food line as Gay Talese, as LAO contributor Judy Graeme observed to me on Saturday. More festival reports from Sarvas' The Elegant Variation, Michael Schneider's Franklin Avenue, the LAT's Jacket Copy, Metblogs, Counterbalance, Bookfox, and Fishbowl LA. (Others I missed if you let me know.) It was great to see a range of LA Observed readers, from Gustavo Arellano to Brady Westwater, stop by the Angel City Press booth while I was signing.