April 26, 2010

Weekend ReCap: UCLA Book Festival

Photo found here.

Officially known as the "L.A. Times Festival of the Book," this is billed as (and is) the largest literary event on the west coast.  I've been attending the festival off and on since it began, about 15 (!) years running now. Except that when I first began going, I didn't have to drive over 100 miles to get there. (At least traffic was not an issue, this year.)

Some years I take Myk, some years I drive in with friends, meet friends, etc. This year was a first, in that I brought someone with me from here in town, whom I just recently discovered also has writing and literary interests of her own.  This was her first time going ever, and she wasn't too forthcoming, but I'm pretty sure she had a good time.  We also met my good friend Becky and two of her buds, all of us invested in the written word, in one form or another.

Held on the beautiful UCLA campus, it's inspiring to walk around and see so many thousands of people there, drawn solely by the promise of books and authors. And maybe their authors aren't too highbrow --- being in L.A., there are lots of celebrity authors and cookbook/celeb chefs -- but hey -- a book is a book. 

There are booths upon booths upon booths of independent, small book presses and publishers, booths upon booth of small and indie bookstores. But if you like to keep it corporate, Target and Borders and Barnes & Noble have their big booths, too.
These aren't my own pictures (forgot to pull out my camera until the end of the day), but we did walk up these steeps steps.
Photo from here.

This year I attended two of the (free!) author panels, one on the memoir, and one featuring three women writers, including Dylan Landis.  I bought her book, Normal People Don't Live Like This, a collection of linked short stories about teenage girls in NYC in the 70s.  Stunning, good stuff.
I always, always get a little bit of a case of vertigo and just plain queasiness when I attend the writing/author panels in the tiered classrooms and see row upon row of ambitious, bookish people like myself. And I think: all these people want to write books too.  All these people have the same ambitions and yearnings and yadda yadda too. Like I said: queasy. But then I get over myself and remember that the universe is abundant and there is room for us all. 

Uh-huh.  Right.

I also bought 2 books of poetry, by Frank O'Hara and Mary Oliver.  New York in the 1950s and awe of the natural world, respectively.  Recently I made a list of things I want to do more of (bake more. wear more skirts. try to like hot tea.) and reading more poetry again was on the list.  O'Hara is already a favorite of mine, and I keep encountering Mary Oliver and liking her a lot.  I'm not going to far from the known path here on my poetry choices but then, hello? It's poetry.  "Famous" poets are still just poor, struggling poets.

Anyway, it was fun to go again this year. A dose of inspiration and being among books and like-minded peeps is always a good thing.  If you're near enough to the Southern California area, you might want to give it a try yourself next year. 

April 21, 2010

Southern Comfort

Southern house on this awesome photo site.

Here's the thing:  I was born and raised here in Southern California. I've never lived anywhere else, except for about a year up in Bakersfield when I was 9 (and Bakersfield is just barely north enough of L.A. county  to not quite qualify for SoCal status itself).  Oh, and then those 2 semesters, spent down in the Old South at Ole Miss, when I was 25.  Thinking about this post, it's clear that my time in Oxford really deserves its own separate post, since that was a very sensory and emotional nine months of my life. A time when everything changed.

But the reasoning behind why I chose to go South in the first place is what this post is about.  Because, for a very, very long time, I have had this yearning, this yen, this connection with the south.  I don't even think it began when I was in 5th grade and saw Gone With the Wind for the first of many times.  It feels earlier than that to me.  (And, whenever I worry about my daughter and her flair for dramatic dorkiness, it helps to recall how I toted a huge faux-leather edition of Margaret Mitchell's epic tome to class every day for a week after my TV viewing, how I flounced around the classroom drawling "Fiddle-di-di!" to the baffled boys.)

It's such a subtle, hard-to-pin-down feeling. It's all sensory, and it's based on something in the breeze, some feel in the air. Once, long ago, I had a dream that I was sitting on the front porch of an old house. It was in the South.  There were bees droning in the bushes near the steps. There was laundry on the line, and a sound of a train in the distance. It was incredibly vivid, and I carry that memory of it always, always with the faint tug that somehow, that is where I belong.

 It has something to do with blue, blue skies that are seared with bright sunshine and white puffy clouds.  Perhaps it's based on my childhood visual memories of lying on the bench backseat of our  Ford LTD (back when kids could actually LIE DOWN in the back of cars), and watching the passing sky and telephone poles during our frequent weekend trips of backroads and byways.

Hearing Arlo Guthrie's "City of New Orleans" brings it on. So does much of the Allman Brothers, especially "Ramblin' Man" and "Blue Sky."  Speaking of ramblin', I feel that's what I'm pretty much doing here, trying to describe something is less wanderlust (which I also know well), but culturelust.  Is there such a thing?  Yes. At least in my head.

I am well-versed in the best of Southern lit: Ms. Flannery O'Connor, Ms. Carson McCullers, Mr. Peter Taylor, a great short story writer. Early Mr. Capote.  And don't even get me started on Mr. Tennesee Williams. 

Here are some pretty pictures that put me in mind of the feeling:
A sunporch with wooden floors, patchwork quilts, painted metal chairs and a stack of books to read.  From a Pottery Barn catalog last year.
(Really, just about any porch would do. I've had serious porch-lust my entire life, and have yet to live in a house with even a small one. The tiny seating area smack next to my front door does not count.)

The kitchen belonging to Suzie Stackhouse's Gran on True Blood.  Oh my gosh I love this picture. I see myself in here, dripping sweat on a hot and humid day, canning peaches.  I've never canned anything in my life and would probably hate the mess and fuss. No matter.  The set design pics such as this, and a link to the killer-awesome Southern Gothic show trailer is what convinced me I had to give True Blood a try. 
Blowsy roses on a silver tray. Something about this photo gives me the itch to go read some Faulkner. "Caddie -- she smelled like leaves..."
Summer Breeze. Found here.  I really disliked the movie Away We Go.  Smug and pretentious and cutesy-smart. But that house they got to move into at the end? TO DIE. What was all the hemming & hawing and cross-country searching about? 
This picture kinda reminds me of that house; it feels like there's a river very close by.
Clothesline, lush backyard.  
All right. So this is just the tip of a really, really big iceberg for me.  I could go on and on, showing you pictures, linking to music. I guess I'm just living in my own private Georgia.  Mississippi.  Whatever.  Were any of the above photos pictures even taken in the South? Does it matter?

Most days, I am drawn to contemporary, clean and colorful lines. Modern homes with lots of windows get me drooling. But some days, I think of my farmhouse dream, of a slowly twirling ceiling fan, and sweating glasses of sweet ice tea.  It's my second home, an escape from the everyday. And it's all up here, right in my little noggin.  Do you have your own private landscape? Have you ever been there, or is just a whisper of passing dappled sunlight, a memory of an old dream?

April 14, 2010

If Happy Little Bluebirds Fly...

I actually have a long post up in my head that I'd love to share with you. But it's almost 11pm here, and when I write that late, my brain gets all revved and humming and fired up, and I'd be up and awake until 2 in the morning and beyond. And a total useless wreck tomorrow. 

I was trolling my bookmarks just now for an image I saw recently on a blog (but couldn't recall where...I do this pretty often, but just as with most items on my terribly cluttered actual desktop, I do re-find them again). Anyhow, I found my photo but can't write the post now. And then I found this photo, which makes me smile.  This is a young woman's thought, a young woman's sentiment.   It's a sort of shorthand for the restlessness in my head tonight.  Spring fever, again.

Photo found here on this Tumblr site.

Night-night, and more soon.
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