List: Top Picks at the Texas Book Festival

Writers and readers of all stripes and flocking to Austin this weekend for the annual Texas Book Festival. The schedule is always a bit daunting for the two day event, so here is a selection of notable events (with descriptions from the festival schedule)  featuring some familiar AMS faces (Elizabeth Engelhardt and Robert Abzug, to name two) as well as a few others worth seeking out amidst the flurry of activity.


A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender & Southern Food

with Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 11:15 – 12:00
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.030

While staples of Southern foodways are often portrayed as stable and unchanging – the stories of their origins generally focused on elite whites or poor blacks – Elizabeth S.D. Engelhardt uses methods of food culture and gender studies to reveal their troubling complexities. An associate professor of American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, Engelhardt was lead author of Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket.

James Evans

the Big Bend photographer on his new book Crazy from the Heat

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 1:00 – 1:45
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.012

James Evans goes well beyond his highly regarded black-and-white work in Crazy from the Heat, displaying magnificent landscapes in full color – including panoramas that fold out to reveal the immensity of the desert. Evans’ work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the El Paso Museum of Art, and the Art Museum of South Texas, as well as in many private collections.

American Reinventions: The Fiction of Leaving Home

with Jillian Lauren, Jennifer Niven, and Kerry Reichs

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 2:15 – 3:15
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.028

“There are no second acts in American lives.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation has always been treated as a kind of literary scripture, but is it really true anymore? Jennifer Niven, Jillian Lauren, and Kerry Reichs’ new novels reveal characters willing – or desperate – to reinvent themselves, with all the excitement and uncertainty reinvention implies. Maeve Connelly’s epic road trip in Kerry Reich’s new novel, Leaving Unknown, is taking her through every colorfully named tiny town in America on her way to the far less imaginatively named Los Angeles, California. Velva Jean Hart, the fiercely independent heroine of Jennifer Niven’s new novel, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, is at the heart of this captivating adventure of a woman bristling at the limitations faced by a woman in rural Appalachia and fueled by the memory of her late Mama telling her to “live out there.” Bebe Baker, the antihero of Jillian Lauren’s new book Pretty: A Novel, is an ex-everything: ex-stripper, ex-Christian, ex-drug addict, ex-pretty girl who looks for something to believe in before something – her past, the dangerously magnetic men in her life, her own bad choices – knocks her off course again.

The Rolling Stone Years

with Rolling Stone photographer Baron Wolman

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 3:15 – 4:00
Location: The Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church (1201 Lavaca, enter from Lavaca St.)

The Rolling Stone Years features the work of Baron Wolman, the first chief photographer to work for America’s legendary Rolling Stone magazine. Many of Wolman’s images from the late sixties and early seventies have become iconic shots from rock’s most fertile era. Wolman shares his insights on the world of rock, and the brilliant yet sometimes flawed characters that inhabit that world.

The Journals of Spalding Gray

with Nell Casey; this session is a collaboration with The Harry Ransom Center

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 4:15 – 5:00
Location: Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004

In The Journals of Spalding Gray, Nell Casey allows us intimate access into the life of Spalding Gray, the actor/writer who invented the autobiographical monologue and perfected the form in such celebrated works as Swimming to Cambodia, before committing suicide in 2004. Culled from more than 5,000 pages and including interviews with friends, colleagues, lovers, and family Nell Casey gives us a haunting glimpse into the life of a creative genius.


The Globalization of American Culture

with Richard Pells, moderated by Robert Abzug
Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011
Time: 12:15 – 1:00
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.014
With engaging analysis and a brisk pace, Pells’ Modernist America: Art, Music, Movies, and the Globalization of American Culturetracks the development of American modernism from its inception to the present day. He shows how modernist artists, writers, architects, and filmmakers across the world broke down the rigid traditions of the 19th century with new, shocking ways of viewing the world.

Moderator Robert H. Abzug is Audre and Bernard Rapoport Regents Chair of Jewish Studies and Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Texas, where he teaches courses in American religion and psychology, Antebellum America, the Holocaust, and American Jewish culture. He is the author of four books and, in 2012, will be publishing an edition of William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience as well as the first full-length biography of the American psychologist Rollo May.

Don’t Fence Me In: Genre-Bending Fiction

with Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Thomas Mullen, and Charles Yu

Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011
Time: 12:30 – 1:30
Location: House Chamber

In 2009, noted science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin took Margaret Atwood to task, believing that Atwood shunned being labeled a science fiction writer because she didn’t “want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto,” as Le Guin called it, the place where science fiction, zombie novels, thrillers, fantasy, and mysteries live. A place where literary fiction thrives is not, presumably, a ghetto. Or is it?

A number of the 2011 Festival’s literary writers (besides the ones appearing in this session) are moving outside the confines of literary fiction by crafting narratives with complex characters and lyrical language but with plots that are more accurately called science fiction, fantasy, or thrillers (check out Colson Whitehead, Russell Banks, and Hillary Jordan’s novels, for starters). Join us at this session for a conversation with Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Thomas Mullen, and Charles Yu, four imaginative, restless writers whose new novels are literary fiction, while stepping outside that realm to engage readers.

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation

with David Goldfield

Date: Sunday, October 23, 2011
Time: 4:00 – 4:45
Location: Lone Star Tent

Countless books have been written on the Civil War: its causes and effects, its battles and heroes. David Goldfield’s exciting new work America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation does not simply reiterate these facts but rather reinterprets them in light of a new thesis: that the Civil War was an avoidable tragedy caused by an Evangelical fervor that stifled debate by raising political discussions to the level of religious arguments – where the sacred was non-negotiable. David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of many works on Southern history, including Still Fighting the Civil War; Black, White and Southern; and Promised Land.

For a full schedule of events, click here.

2 comments on “List: Top Picks at the Texas Book Festival

  1. Tim Schroedter says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for the reminder! I’ll be swooning in the front row at the “Genre-Bending Fiction” panel.

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