It’s Hard Out Here for an Introvert
I refer of course to L.A. and the L.A. Times Festival of Books which I'm in the midst of. My end-of-day weariness called to mind that hip hop song that won an Oscar 6 or so years ago, titled "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." I think it was Jon Stewart who remarked that "it just got a lot easier" as they left the stage with the statuette.
I think of myself as a chatty introvert — or maybe a half-and-half intro-extra. In any event, gatherings of over 500 writers, famous and semi-famous and striving, can bring out the retiring part of my nature. And that was just the speakers at this affair. Crowd estimates for the attendance run about 75,000 a day.
I spent part of the day giving out cards — about 175 of them — to passing attendees. The cards have the cover of Cobalt Blue on one side and the time and place of the panel I'm on tomorrow on the other. It was easier to write the book than it was to approach 175 strangers, all the time remembering all the hawkers I've breezed by in my life. More than 90% of the people were downright gracious. Still I was glad I'd gotten rid of them. (And I'm probably the most brash of my writer friends.)
I still have a couple of hundred of these things to give out in the morning. At least I learned a few things: the more crowded the area, the fewer people would take a card.
I went to a couple of the panel discussions. At The Social Novel, which included Jonathan Lethem, I concluded that I was glad I wasn't assigned to that panel. Way too brainy. The word facticity was used; emphasis on the 2nd syllable, and problematic was put to work as a noun. The discussion was very interesting and the writers enormously well-read. But I also know that such discourse can bring out my inner hayseed. Good thing I was assigned to the panel called Fiction: Tangled Lives. Much better fit.
The rest of my time was in what's called the Green Room where the panelists can congregate and schmooze when not otherwise engaged. I expected a large classroom. It was a ballroom, see above, with massive crystal chandeliers and all-day ever-changing buffets. Lots of different kinds of cheesecakes for one thing.
One particularly nice Green Room conversation: I introduced myself to Ben Fountain, whose father I used to write about when I was reporting. He said we'd met. He had just started writing when my first novel Revelation came out. He attended a reading I did at the Cary, NC, public library and get this: he asked my advice after my talk. As I said to him this morning, I must have advised him very, very well. His novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, was a National Book Award finalist last year and won an L.A. Times Prize Friday night.