As can only be expected, this year's Texas Book Festival had its share of hits and misses. Thankfully, however, from my experience, the hits way outnumbered the misses.
As always, my biggest complaint is being forced to leave a great session early in order to make it on time to a session that runs immediately following the first, or even overlaps it. Because the tents are a good walk from the Capitol building itself, and because metal detectors are involved upon each entrance of the building, I missed the last fifteen minutes of several presentations in order to make it to the next on time. Granted, that's the point at which most sessions are thrown open to questions from the audience, but still I felt a little gyped. On Saturday, for instance, I found myself sneaking out of sessions by James Ellroy, John Dean, and Elizabeth Crook way before I was ready.
On the other hand, the tent "system" did enable me to sample presentations by several authors with whom I was unfamiliar - and, too, the shade offered a welcome break from all that direct sunshine. So I suppose this is not a "terrible" problem. It probably seemed worse to me this year because so many of my "can't miss" authors were scheduled for Saturday that the Sunday session had the feel of "after-thought" for me.
Biggest surprise authors to me: Kevin Kwan and Elizabeth Crook. I was unfamiliar with Kwan's novels (Crazy Rich Asians was his debut novel) even though he grew up in the Houston area after his family moved here from Taiwan when he was twelve. I did know Crook's wonderful novel about the Charles Whitman murders on the University of Texas campus, Monday Monday, but was still impressed by the insights she offered us about the tower sniping and how the novel was conceived and put together.
Random thought: What do book festivals and bluegrass festivals have in common? Lots, and lots of gray hair. Are serious readers dying off at the same pace that bluegrass fans are doing it? One difference is that book festival crowds always appear to be about 90% female, while bluegrass festivals are more of a 50-50 split. (I, in fact, noticed that guys were seeking each other out a bit to hold conversations about "guy books.")
Listening to John Dean, Douglas Brinkley, and Luke Nichter discuss the Nixon tapes makes me want to find some of them on line and listen to them. Having read the transcripts of some of the tapes, I imagine them to be a mixture of sheer boredom, revulsion, and utter fascination with the events of the day.
In Part Two, I have a few thoughts on specific authors to share.