Local lit talent neglected at this year’s book festival

This year the Virginia Festival of the Book assembled, as usual, a spectacular forum of literary luminaries from all over the world. Unfortunately the festival recruiters inadvertently overlooked a handful of Charlottesville authors. Here are the local writers who I think deserve to be featured in the festival next year. Recruiters, take note.*

1. Daniel J. Meador – Meador may be best known for being a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Law, but he is also the author of three novels: His Father’s House, Unforgotten, and Remberton. Additionally, he wrote the memoir At Cahaba, a fascinating account of Meador’s childhood in an Alabama ghost town plagued by floods. The book is especially interesting considering its degree of visual detail, constructed purely from memory. Meador has been legally blind for several decades.

2. David L. Holmes – Recent recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award at the College of William & Mary, Professor Holmes is also the acclaimed author of the 2006 book of American religious history, Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Always a professor first and a writer second, Holmes has still managed to make a literary name for himself in the field of religious studies. He is currently working on a sequel to FotFF in which he explores the poor church attendance of Ronald Reagan, the Quaker origins of Richard Nixon, and the spiritual lives of the rest of the post-World War II presidents.

3. John Grisham – Much like J.D. Salinger, this local recluse rarely gives interviews, publicizes his books, or leaves his Charlottesville estate, hence we are forced to speculate on what Mr. Grisham, a writer of obscure legal thrillers, even looks like. Is he young? Old? Married? Does he have UVA basketball season tickets on the floor of John Paul Jones Arena? We will never find answers to these questions until the Festival of the Book lures Grisham from his misanthropic hidey-hole.

4. Jocelyn Johnson – Every time I suffer from another hysterical pregnancy, I think of Jocelyn’s terrific short story Pseudocyesis (PDF). And as a special bonus, her husband Billy Hunt is the official photographer for C.L.A.W. – the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers.

5. Matthew Farrell – Farrell runs the Hypocrite Press, an independent local publishing company devoted to “the underground subculture of downtown Charlottesville.” Publishing the prose of playwright Joel Jones, the cult Robitussin saga Concerning Big Fun by Gus “The Gus” Mueller, a brand new book of C-Ville short stories, as well as Farrell’s own “literary-satirical” fiction, Hypocrite Press makes virtually no money, but it maintains its artistic integrity. “And isn’t that what’s important?,” says the girl who is holding out for a six-figure book contract.

* PS I have also cleared my schedule for the end of March, 2009.

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