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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, November 08, 2004 - 10:14 am:   

There are lots of things we here in Louisiana don't tend to do so well -- keep our roads paved; educate our children; conserve our coastline; attract or develop nonpolluting industries; etc. etc. etc. But one thing we've learned to do extremely well is: THROW A BIG PARTY!!! Our festivals are second to none, and now we book lovers can add the annual Louisiana Book Fair to our list of don't-miss-it events.

Only in its third year, the LBF has grown into a mini-Jazz-and-Heritage-Festival for the reading set. Last year, it attracted almost ten thousand attendees (admission is free), and this year it probably grew by fifteen or twenty percent. About a hundred and ten Louisiana writers (or writers with Louisiana roots or connections) did readings, gave lectures, signed books, and shmoozed on the grounds of the Louisiana State Capitol Building and State Library. Readings and lectures were held inside the Capitol Building in the Senate or House hearing rooms. Other events were held in tents out on the great lawn between the Capitol and the State Library. The local Barnes and Noble provided books in the signing tent, and, true to Louisiana tradition, dozens of other tents featured local food.

Dara, Levi and I drove over to Baton Rouge Friday night so we could attend the authors' party at the State Library. One of the librarians was kind enough to let us use one of the records rooms to let Levi crawl around in and explore (much better than letting him get trampled by folks looking for the wine and gumbo). I said hi briefly to Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart) by the dessert table, and I enjoyed a really nice conversation with Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, in the men's room, of all places. Aside from focusing on his Vietnam War experiences and his affinity for Louisiana's Vietnamese community in many of his novels and stories, Robert is also one of us, sort of: a fantasist. Some of his recent books have included titles like Tabloid Dreams and Mr. Spaceman, stories that could've easily fit within the pages of F&SF or Crank!

On Saturday, I had a chance to see my friend and workshop-mate Laura Joh Rowland give a lecture on the sexual habits of Japan's seventeenth century gentry, delivered in her trademark deadpan style (which took drained all the prurience out of her presentation). In the green room, my family and I plopped down next to Jim Brown, the ex-Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance. Jim just came out with a book on his inditement and conviction for malfeasance in office, his jail time, and the overturning of his conviction. Another one of our "never boring" Louisiana politicians, and a surprisingly approachable and likable guy.

My own presentation and reading was amazingly well attended, considering that I was scheduled against Robert Olen Butler, Jim Brown, and popular New Orleans mystery author Julie Smith. I filled up one of the House hearing rooms, putting about fifty tushes in the seats. Some of the people there had come to hear me last year at the festival, when I'd had to duck out at the last minute due to Levi's early arrival on the scene. I read scenes from both books, running out of time with my reading from Bride, so I broke off in the middle of Jules's first attempted resurrection of Maureen and told everybody that if they wanted to find out what happened, they'd have to buy the book! No rioting ensued, but it was a close thing. Then my minder (yes, I had a minder, a volunteer who kept me from getting lost) walked us over to the book signing tent, and I drew a bunch of cartoons of ol' Jules on people's programs and books.

A terrific event, one which I hope we'll attend many more years to come. I even got a chance to see the nicer parts of downtown Baton Rouge (quite a bit different from the tenderloin district I have the exiled Jules slinking through during the middle of Fat White Vampire Blues).
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John Picacio
Posted on Monday, November 08, 2004 - 11:44 am:   

Congrats, Andy! Very good to hear that your reading was well-attended, especially against some heavy hitters.

Keep working, man!
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, November 08, 2004 - 12:56 pm:   

Thanks for the good wishes, John. I still want you to do a book cover for me one of these days! Oh, and Levi's first birthday party on Sunday was really sweet. His grandma brought him a baby walker shaped like a car, with a steering wheel, horn, and cell phone (nowadays as much a necessity in a car as a set of brakes, it seems). After he figured out how easy it was to use, he started zipping around our back yard and den like a pint-sized Speed Racer. Look out, world!

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