Tag Archives: Local News

Personal regrets from past book festivals

The following luminaries were in Charlottesville on March 24, 2004, for that year’s Virginia Festival of the Book: Michael Chabon, Edward P. Jones, Clyde Edgerton, and Michael Ondaatje. Did anyone who reads this blog see them in person? Did anyone buy them a drink, or if they don’t drink, a club soda? Did anyone gush nonsensically to Chabon about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or to Jones about The Known World like I would have done? Did anyone spray them with joyous spittle while welcoming them to Charlottesville’s Omni Hotel? And did any of you girls high-five Lois Lowry in 1997 and then tell her at length about your first menstrual periods?! I can only hope you did. Meanwhile I will try to make up for lost time when VABook 2009 starts tomorrow.

Equal opportunity bullying on the mean streets of Charlottesville

Yesterday I was jogging past the parking lot of the auto body shop, imagining all the different car accidents responsible for the wreckage, when I was approached by a pair of nine-year-old girls carrying Fiddlesticks. I’m not usually intimidated by nine-year-olds, but these girls decided to pick on me because they perceived me – wrongly! – to be old and daydreamy and significantly out of shape. One of the girls – the ringleader – gave me a nefarious look and started pretending her mini lacrosse stick was an electric guitar. She shouted all the chords at the top of her lungs, bullying me with her stupid, made-up song while we passed on the sidewalk. It’s like she was mocking my musicianship, except I was wearing running shoes and she was carrying sports equipment and I couldn’t ascertain any connection between what the three of us were doing and the way in which I was being taunted. But I felt like I was under attack and I was frightened, so I quickly jogged away. But the two girls took a shortcut across a field and intercepted me on the next block where they resumed aggressively playing their lacrosse stick guitar at me and laughing and I was forced to flee and hide out in a nearby CVS until I was sure they were gone.

But as clearly disturbing as this incident was, I’m sort of proud that young female, and not just male, bullies are now picking on the weak and defenseless in Charlottesville. As a young girl I never would have had the balls to confront an elegant, athletic, mature woman on the street and try to take her down a notch in some inexplicable fashion. I feel like feminism has come a long way in America when delinquent girls can be loud and rude and intrepid and gang up on strangers who have wandered into their neighborhoods in the name of physical fitness and who then go home and cry from fear and confusion after accepting the girls’ weird abuse, when that used to be the exclusive purview of troubled young men.

Keep up the good work, my young sisters! I fully support you in your equal opportunity bullying. My only suggestion would be to develop a more coherent system of attack so you don’t leave your victims feeling like they missed the point. But maybe you’re waging psychological warfare, in which case, wow.

The VA Festival of the Book contains more human interest stories than the Oscars

We all know that John Grisham used to practice law, but did we know that Harley Jane Kozak, a VA Festival of the Book Crime Wave headliner, was the beautiful Buckman wife serenaded by Rick Moranis in Parenthood? You remember – “Nathan, we’re trying so hard to keep these kids off drugs.” I loved her in that movie. She was also in both Arachnophobia and When Harry Met Sally. But in the past five years she’s published four novels. It was about time she got a real job!

Ms. Kozak probably hates it when people remind her of her sordid past as a stunning and critically acclaimed Hollywood actress, but I’m not in this blogging game to make friends. Speaking of which, if I tried to collaborate on a blog with my five best friends like Harley does in The Lipstick Chronicles, I would surely lose my marbles. If writing was a team sport, I would be playing third string in the d-league of a junior college. And I’d probably have to pay for my own uniform. And my name would be misspelled in the roster. Go on, you say? And I’d spend most games hanging out by the vending machine waiting for candy to fall out. But here in this circumscribed writing world where every day I play myself for the championship title, my pitching arm is strong and I’m chewing Big League Gum and I’m going to knock that other girl’s teeth out if she dares to step between me and home plate. Score: zero, zero. Winner: me!

Maybe Harley will let me be her ballgirl. I can at least bring her a bottle of Gatorade when she reads on March 21st.

I am experiencing the usual emotions: excitement, terror

Tomorrow we fly to the land that gave us Junot Diaz, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Julia Alvarez. At least they have all written about the Dominican Republic. Everything I know about the world south of the border I have learned from novels. I’m expecting a lot of old, winged men falling from the sky and that sort of thing. I’m also expecting a Lost-type scenario, or more probably, death by plane crash. But before death, pina colada!

I will not be blogging about my trip, but here are some literary links to tide you over until my plane lands softly, angelically on Virginia tarmac next week:

The Times writes about how the Times broke Wallace Stegner’s heart.

Colin Robertson of the London Review of Books weighs in on the publishing crisis. (Thanks to MW for the link.)

Trailer for the movie adaptation of Larry Doyle’s I Love You Beth Cooper starring Hayden Panettiere as Beth Cooper.

Zadie Smith writes about race, being both genuine and multiple, language, and Obama in the New York Review of Books. (Thanks to AP for the link.)

Also, these jerks stole my gig, restaurant servers are conspiratorial about dessert, and the most bizarre experiments of all time.

The Virginia Festival of the Book is like Bonnaroo but for sexy people

Why do I say that? No reason.

I’m outrageous!

The truth is the Virginia Festival of the Book is better than any music festival you can shake a porcupine pie at and that’s because the VFB doesn’t buy into the whole concept of “cool” or even that of “music festival.” The VA Festival of the Book doesn’t try to wow you with its “Clean Vibes’ Trading Posts” or its Yoga Classes or its rock ‘n’ roll or its Yeah Yeah Yeahs. People don’t bus onto the festival grounds because they want to get a henna tattoo and smoke weed with John Grisham. They come because I’m here. In my capacity as a headlining VFB blogger, I demand that you join me for this important event, March 18-22, 2009. Here are some highlights:

Stephen L. Carter of Yale and John Grisham of My Pants are going to have a handsome contest and I don’t know who’s going to win, but I will be judging strenuously. I feel bad for the writers who aren’t given enough credit for being sex objects. I want to print their book jackets on giant posters and distribute them to teen girls.

Doctors are going to bridge the gap between medicine and writing. I am going to grow a hernia thinking of something funny to say about it. Then the doctors are going to operate on me and I’ll be cured! Haha!

Rita Dove is going to read from her new book of poetry accompanied by a member of the Dave Matthews Band, Boyd Tinsley. He will be jamming on his electric poetry violin which will plug into his poetry road amp, nicknamed Will-jam Butler Yeats. Maybe Nikki Jamiovanni. Oh god.

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, is going to eat croutons and peanut butter sausages or perhaps something even more unexpected at his business breakfast.

I am going to have an awesome time shmoozing at the Authors’ Reception, just like last year when I met these precocious young ladies and ate my weight in hors d’oeuvres and (swoon!) got a literary agent’s e-mail address. The VFB Authors’ Reception is my Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

We had a wedding and what a wedding it was

The wedding can best be summarized by our guests who filled out mad libs throughout the evening. In lieu of a live blog, I believe their combined words tell the tale:

After four years of dating, Darren finally skunked Wistar in Portugal. With the help of their ugly monkeys, Darren and Wistar finally married on December 27th in the Live Arts Church of Bunion Pad. The couple’s families were mushroomy to see the scrofulous sight. Even their dearest friends felt moist when Darren and Wistar were pronounced man and wife at last. The bride looked winterizing in a lukewarm dress, but the guests didn’t know she wore badger underneath. Darren hired a professional wedding consultant to help him with his wagon wheel, but Wistar handled his hard hat herself. When they danced to Big Dumb Sex by Unprovoked Moose Attack and Beer for My Horses by Mr. Kayak, any Little League chest protector could feel the magic in the air. In the forbidden city of Charlottesville that night, all their wedding guests knew that Darren and Wistar would joust together forever.

My sister and her boyfriend also spoke eloquently when they said, “The wedding was foggy and we were confused to be invited! May you share many eyeballs together!” I would fill out my own mad lib, but the only words I can come up with post-night-of-my-life are “exhausted,” “elastic-waist pajama bottoms,” and “the prospect of starring in another wedding is reason enough to stay married to Darren until I die.” Thank you to all the beloved silver spraypaint huffers and card-carrying cupcakoholics who made the event so fridge magnetic.

Marquee over Live Arts - Photo by Billy Hunt

The Virginia Film Festival is in my backyard eating all my popcorn

The Virginia Film Festival takes place in Charlottesville this weekend! Granted, it’s no Virginia Festival of the Book, but UVA has now thrown this party 21 times to tremendous acclaim. And the weekend promises to be as exciting as anything possibly can be without a nonstop parade of serious books and authors. Movie stars have always lagged behind novelists in the glamor department. Consider the fact that they live in trailers.

But despite having a clear favorite among our two local arts festivals, I still plan to see some movies in the next few days, especially since the theme this year is intriguingly “Aliens Among Us.” And yes, I have an all-access VIP festival pass; and yes, I will be flaunting it throughout the weekend whether or not I am attending a Virginia Film Festival event at the time. So check back for updates on all the culture I am about to soak up.

Lastly, if you’re thinking about dressing up as a Hollywood celebrity for Halloween, just consider this: you can put together an author costume in three minutes using a cardigan sweater, office supplies, and whatever’s in your sock drawer. You don’t even have to be good-looking! Unless you’re dressing up like me, in which case you have to be very good-looking.

Did I say me? I meant Marisha Pessl. Or Zadie Smith. Or Padma Lakshmi. But they’re much harder to pull off. For instance dressing up like them would involve more than greasing your hair, wrapping yourself in a blanket, putting on holey slippers and holey socks after confirming that the holes don’t coincide, and then complaining about the central heat being broken while you cuddle a laptop for warmth.

Review of “Doubt: A Parable” from One Star Watt’s resident theater expert

This week’s C-Ville features my review of Doubt: A Parable, a play by John Patrick Shanley showing at Live Arts through October 11. The editors had difficulty reining me in so I did not focus my review on either the guava/vodka cocktails being served at the Live Arts concession stand or on the historical fact that Shanley also wrote the screenplay to Joe Versus the Volcano. If I had my way, the review would have been 20% Joe Versus the Volcano, 30% guava/vodka cocktails, 10% how good the play was, and 40% my byline. So way to go, editors.

From an earlier draft, my ode to opening night at Live Arts:

“What does it mean that Live Arts “forges community and theater”? For this reviewer attending the opening night of Doubt: A Parable by playwright John Patrick Shanley, it means that Live Arts’ artistic director [the dashing John Gibson!] personally reminds the audience to turn off its cell phones before curtain. It means that as the lights dim, people in the front row whisper about who they know in the production. It means that members of the lead actor’s Crozet Presbyterian congregation bought their tickets in order to get a better sense of their pastor’s extracurricular activities. And it means that after the play the whole crowd stays on to enjoy champagne [a nice complement to the guava/vodka cocktails] and pastries [yes, okay, yes] courtesy of Albemarle Baking Company and a couple local arts patrons. So that’s the community part of the forging. The theater part is first-class entertainment.”

Being behind on the internet but on top of my personal life

The worst thing about being a blogger is that the internet keeps going even when you’re too lazy or busy to check on it. At any given moment bloggers feel pressured to know exactly what the internet is doing, who the internet hooked up with the night before, what the internet ate for breakfast, etc. It’s exhausting. And if days go by without tracking every internet hiccup or virtual bowel movement, you feel like you’re a bad blogger. You’ll never catch up with all the action. There are too many missing links.

That’s why I’m going to take one more day to focus purely on me, myself, and my personal life – subjects that will always be fresh and exciting to us all. Namely, I’m recently engaged to be married to the bbf (blogging boyfriend). Or is he now the bfh (blogging future husband)? Or perhaps the bbr (blogger with buyer’s remorse)?

But hold your gift baskets! Recork the Cristal! Cancel your order for the matching china set from the Pottery Barn! We are determined to do this as minimally as possible. You can just send cash or check to my PO box.

In the coming months I will discover what engagements and weddings are all about. I will finish reading Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. I will send all my two dozen bridesmaids to the spa to get Botoxed at their own expense. I will coach my uppity flower girl to act less adorable so she won’t eclipse me on my special day. I will sample frosted layer cakes and brag to you about how delicious they are. Finally, I will admit to the bbf that I’m not actually pregnant with triplets or going to war but unfortunately he can’t revoke the proposal because the wheels are already in motion.

I am the prettiest princess! It’s me! In your FACE, less pretty princesses!

The flying cat lives!

I’m tickled to be back (as of Tuesday) in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a Lisbon cat in my luggage. I didn’t open the bag to let the cat out until last night, and by that time the cat was really hungry. Then she meowed and purred nonstop, drawing excessive amounts of attention to herself until all I wanted to do was zip her back into my rolling suitcase. But the cat is not going back into the bag, and you’ll know what I’m talking about soon enough.

In any case, I’m back in town and back on the blog. I’m also loving C-Ville Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief Cathy Harding (arm wrestling name “The Punctuator“) right now for calling me one of Charlottesville’s unsung heroes. She might not have used those exact words, but you certainly can.