My 12 Favorite Things From the Guadalajara Book Fair
1 - Seeing Los Lobos perform La Pistola y El Corazon to an adoring crowd with author Jervey Tervalon and the NEA's David Kipen (rocking out in a suit), then trying not to squee like a fangirl while meeting the band at the after-party.
2 - Tequila in the Green Room. American literary festival organizers, take note!
3 - Giving a talk to college students at El Centro Universitario de los Lagos two hours away. Also loved the fields of planted agave along the highway on our drive there.
4 - The crispy crickets at Lonche-rita were eaten purely to impress my Fear Factor boys of 11 and 13, but the most sublime dish was the tortas de pato (duck) floating in a fragrant achiote bath which will doubtless be described more lyrically in Jonathan Gold's next column.
5 - Meeting J. Michael Walker, author of "All The Saints of the City of Angels," perhaps the most brilliant high-concept book I've ever read outside of Mike Davis. Walker visited each of the 100-plus LA streets named after saints, researched and then created exquisite paintings of each one (the patron saint of gardeners is depicted with a leaf blower on his back) and a page of text. Y'all run out and buy it, it's a postmodern sacred relic.
6 - Hearing the Southwest Chamber Music Ensemble perform works by four 20th century composers, including John Adams and Mexican composer Carlos Chavez.
7 - Chatting books and walking with Susan Straight through a lush, leafy residential neighborhood near our hotel. Think Hancock Park with guard dogs, high walled gates and um, armed security guards stationed outside.
8 - Sitting with Michael Jaime-Becerra and his wife Elizabeth eating yummy tortas at a crowded local place recommended by the taxi driver while checking out the menu at the taco stand next door. "I've never heard of tacos de ojo," mused Michael. Besides eye tacos, there were also lip tacos and cheek tacos. I wonder if they have those in L.A.
9 - Never knowing who you'd see and chat with each morning over breakfast in the hotel, from screenwriter Michael Tolkin to authors Richard Rayner, Luis Rodriguez, Hector Tobar, Nina Revoyr, Carolyn See, Gary Phillips and Alex Espinosa. I also really enjoyed hanging with science fiction authors Larry Niven, Greg Benford and Kim Stanley Robinson. For someone like me who works in isolation all day, has two young kids and is rarely able to trek across town at rush hour for readings or dinner with author friends, this was heaven.
10 - The Lowrider car exhibit at the Festival, which might have drawn the consistently biggest crowds of curious Mexicans gawking at our fantastically imagined cars with their wildly colorful, cherried out paint jobs. How fitting that this art/design style conceived in large part by Mexican immigrants to the United States are so exotic in Mexico. A perfect example of how culture morphs as it is re-imagined over time and across borders. Whoever designed the L.A. Exhibit with its Blade Runner-like balloons streaming video, floating author names and touch screen deserves major props too.
11 - Chatting about L.A. literature with Hector Tobar and J. Michael Walker on La Tertulia, a one-hour national radio show devoted to literary topics that is broadcast throughout Mexico each Friday night. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have such a literary program in the U.S.!
12 - And lastly, the incredibly hard-working, organized, dedicated and enthusiastic Book Fair workers who schlepped us everywhere, got us to gigs and airports on time, translated, offered bottled water, coffee, sweets, hugs, their computers and made it all seem effortless. Thanks to them, the Feria Internacional del Libros, the NEA and the LA Department of Cultural Affairs for allowing us rabble across the border and letting us turn Guadalajara into LA South for one terrific week.