by Morgan on May 2, 2011
Admittedly, I only made it to the festival on Saturday, despite reserving a full weekend’s worth of panel tickets, and for this I’d like to formally blame something called a “Moscow mule. ” Let’s not talk about it.
USC is a great venue for the festival. I was iffy about the move from UCLA, but as it turns out, USC is far more navigable than the former, allowing for last-minute decisions about what to see or do without wasting thirty minutes walking to something you’re not sure if you even care about. The festival was tightly organized too; everything I went to, at least, started exactly on time and was where it was supposed to be. And the panels were excellent.
David Ulin in conversation with Patti Smith & Dave Eggers:
- the hoards of aging punk-rockers.
- Eggers admitting that he’d brooded over his life for eight years, and then wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius in eight months. “I knew the only way I was going to be able to get through it would be to give myself a ridiculous deadline.”
- Smith’s utter hippiedom. “We have to take to the streets, en masse, and demand universal peace and love!”
- Eggers: “I sit at my desk, eight hours a day, at my little writing desk in my little shed with my little computer, okay I’m writing, okay, eight hours a day of sitting there and 45 minutes of actual work, thinking, ‘My god, there are people out there with jobs!’”
- the dichotomy between Eggers’ view that to be an artist is to be profoundly blessed, deeply fortunate, and Smith’s view that artists pay a serious price for being “called” to make art: being condemned to live one’s life at a remove from it.
One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History — Stephen Elliott in conversation with Larry Flynt & David Eisenbach:
- Flynt: “I’d wanted to write this book for a long time. I called David because I knew no one was going to read a history book written by a pornographer.”
- learning about just how many of our presidents had…tendencies.
The Pale King – David Ulin in conversation with D.T. Max, Bonnie Nadell & Michael Pietsch:
The whole thing. This panel was outstanding. Watching Max, who’s writing a Wallace biography, talk to two people who knew Wallace very well, and in front of an audience of serious fans, was very interesting. I could see the cogs turning.
Pietsch, who became visibly emotional more than once, talked a lot about how Wallace was, above all other things, an “inveterate noticer,” someone who couldn’t help but to notice every little detail. “His work was really all about the same thing: asking ‘How can you really be there?’ His work was to dramatize mindfulness as it were.”
He remarked how incredibly prolific a writer Wallace managed to be during the 12+ years he’d worked on The Pale King, publishing two collections of short stories, two books of essays, numerous magazine articles, and his masterpiece on free will. “David called me and was like, ‘I just wanna work on this little thing about the history of infinity. Don’t worry, it won’t take away from the novel.’”
Nadell, Wallace’s longtime agent, talked about how Wallace had wanted The Pale King to show that he could go beyond what everyone knew he could do, how he “didn’t want to rely on the tricks he knew how to do, and knew he knew how to do, and had always known how to do, even when he was a very young writer.” In answer to that much-asked question of whether or not he felt pressure to live up to Infinite Jest, Nadell remarked that this was how he wanted to do that, by not falling back on his tricks, by writing a novel that was difficult for him.
I had to sneak out of the Wallace panel early, to meet my ride, but the day was lovely. Super nerdfest.