A weekend of books
Decatur Book Festival, listening to authors, hanging out with friends and making a few new ones.
The festival began Friday night with Jonathan Franzen's keynote reading from his new novel, Freedom. I went with Frankin Abbott and Cal Gough and we grabbed a bite of dinner at Figo before heading over to Agnes Scott College's Presser Hall. We arrived early and there was already a line wrapped around the building. Tickets were free, but had been snapped up weeks ago, so folks were milling around hoping a few seats remained.
I have to be honest – I'm not a Franzen fan. I thought The Corrections was okay, but tedious, and judging from the passage he read Friday night, Freedom sounds like more of the same. I know reviewers are praising the book left and right – just as they did with The Corrections – but it's not my cuppa tea. Publisher's Weekly, who was blogging from the festival this weekend, said Franzen "knocked it out of the park" during his reading, but I beg to differ – unless I was in some kind of Fringe-like alternate universe.
Franzen strolled out on stage, took off his jacket, tossed it on the floor and rolled up his sleeves. He brought a copy of Freedom on stage and stripped off the dust jacket and through that on the floor, too. The audience was all twitterpated over these actions, while I just gave it one big eye roll. He told the audience it was hard to pick a chapter since they were all so long and involved, so he decided to read parts of the second chapter. It was obvious he hadn't prepared, so the reading was punctuated by pauses as he decided what to edit out. The part he read was full of the usual minutiae that is a Franzen hallmark, but drags on the narrative. During the Q&A, Franzen never actually answered a question, but was admittedly "free associating." Ummm...yeah.
The social media panel I moderated was in the same ballroom and we – Karen Head, Jessica Handler, Laurel Snyder and Jef Blocker –expected maybe 30 or 40 folks to show up since there were so many competing events, but there was more like 130! Plenty of practical advice about using Facebook, Twitter and blogs to build a community of writers, interact with fans and using the social media sites to do more than just browbeating folks to buy your book. We could have answered questions for another hour, so we're hoping the DBF folks will let us have more time next year.
After a leisurely lunch at Leon's Full Service with poet Charles Jensen, his partner Beau, their friend Douglas, David Groff, his partner Clay, Dustin Brookshire and Julie Bloemeke, I wandered over to the Local Poetry Stage at Java Monkey and heard Robert Lee Brewer and some other fine poets. I then introduced the self-publishing workshop and headed home. I was exhausted.