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Book Report! LA Times Fest for You

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The Festival of Books was just like SXSW, except with books instead of music, and with scarcely any drinking, drugs or sex. Nevertheless, it was enormous, exhausting and exhilarating. LAist made it to a couple of impressive panels focused on LA: one featuring DJ Waldie, Norman Klien and Richard Rayner; the other with Steve Erickson, Michelle Huneven, Peter Lefcourt and Michael Jaime-Becerra. Some of their bon mots follow. Just for you, we managed to ferret out one drug-related reading and pop in on a panel discussion about sex. Salacious details are after the jump. !! Los Angeles !! To Live & Die in LA: moderated by David Ulin
DJ Waldie - Where We Are Now: Notes From Los Angeles (2004)
Norman Klein - The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (1997)
Richard Rayner - The Devil's Wind (2005)

Each author is asked to characterize the city. Rayner says that LA has a "fictionalizing instinct." Klein says "LA is the city of the future...15 years too late." Waldie says there is a shift taking place in Los Angeles, "and that shift is brown." Ulin cracks wise about the panel (all white guys) reflecting that. But the white guys, including novelist Rayner, spend a lot of time talking about the challenges facing our city, which can be summarized as the growing gap between rich and poor. Rayner remarks that it's funny how after you live here a while, when you talk about the city's real problems you sound like a Marxist. The panel and audience seem to agree. Keep your eye on the LA Times editorial page to see if this resonates — new editor Michael Kinsley was sitting two seats down from us.

!! Drugs !! Fiction: Hollywood Confidential, moderated by Rachel Resnick
David Freeman - It's All True: A Novel of Hollywood (2004)
Seth Greenland - The Bones (2005)
Terrill Lee Lankford - Earthquake Weather (2004)
Jerry Stahl - I, Fatty (2004)

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Sunday many moderators chose to start their panels with a short reading, this one included. Stahl, widely known for the book/movie Permanent Midnight (about being a TV writer and junkie), read from his new imagined biography of silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle. He joked that he was contractually obliged to read about heroin in all public appearances, then plunged into a slightly terrifying narration of Fatty trying to get clean in a specially-built rubber room. Good morning.

!! Los Angeles !! Rethinking Los Angeles, moderated by Susan Salter Reynolds
Steve Erickson - Our Ecstatic Days (2005)
Michelle Huneven - Jamesland (2003)
Michael Jaime-Becerra - Every Night is Ladies' Night (2004)
Peter Lefcourt - The Manhattan Beach Project (2005)

More readings. Salter Reynolds asks the authors where they live in LA: Topanga Canyon, Altadena, El Monte, and Santa Monica Canyon ("which has the disctinction," Lefcourt says, "of being in neither Santa Monica nor a canyon.") They discuss common themes among LA authors. Jaime-Becerra says ambition and bravery, citing his grandmother's coming to California from Mexico. Peter Lefcourt talks of being a gypsy culture, of our rootlessness, calling Joan Didion the high priestess of this theme with her book Play It As It Lays. Erickson says that LA does not impose a collective identity up on us, and that's its attraction. Softspoken Huneven mentions the great fertility and array of cultures. They then dished about being LA writers with NY publishers, but kept it fairly nice. Erickson gets the LAist prize for being the first non-blogger to mention blogging in discussion.

!! Sex !! The Art of the Short Story, moderated by Tod Goldberg
Steve Almond - The Evil BB Chow and Other Stories (2005)
Aimee Bender - Willful Creatures (2005)
Merrill Joan Gerber - This is a Voice from Your Past (2005)
Bret Anthony Johnston - Corpus Christi: Stories (2004)

LAist stuck our head in this sold-out panel just long enough to hear Tod Goldberg ask Steve Almond about his frank writing about sex. At the Vermin on the Mount/Swink reading the night before, Almond had indeed read a fairly bleak story excerpt of an encounter that started with spanking and went on to more carnal engagements. The question slid into laughter around the prospect of being writing faculty who read their students' sex writing, then find themselves picturing their students having sex. Think of your comp professor in the same way, and you'll see why it was time for us to go.

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!! Octogenarian !! The blockbuster appearance we hit was Ray Bradbury speaking to an audience of thousands, and we have little good to say. Here's our best nice shot: He's 85, he's a local treasure, and the crowd really seemed to adore him.