For all of my enthusiasm about the Virginia Festival of the Book, I haven’t done a good job of attending events this year. There were a couple of things I wanted to see on Wednesday afternoon and evening, but I teach Wednesday nights so I couldn’t go. Thursday events didn’t excite me so much. Today, though, I went in the morning and attended two programs that I enjoyed very much. I think that’s going to be it for this year – I’ve got other things I need to do tomorrow and Sunday.
The first program, at New Dominion Bookshop, was “Novels of the Working Life.” The title was misleading. What drew me to the program was fiction about people with real jobs (because so many novels and stories are populated by people who don’t seem to work for a living). But all three of these authors have written novels derived from their own experience, and that’s not quite the same thing, particularly because two were journalists and the former, a lawyer writing about law clerks for judges, is a former journalist. Be that as it may, the presentations (by Malcolm Mcpherson, Mark Ethridge, and Saira Rao) were all engaging and funny. I didn’t buy their books, though.
The second program, also at New Dominion, was more what I expected. Titled “Short Stories,” the program’s three authors had recently published story collections. The first reader, Nin Andrews, has a book called Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane that is a mix of poetry and flash fiction. The subject matter seemed a bit gimmicky, but I liked the form. Next up was Gerald Duff, author of the collection Fire Ants, and the last presenter was Cary Holladay, who read from The Quick-Change Artist. After the readings I asked whether the stories in the respective books were linked and also what kind of publication record the stories had before the books came out. Holladay’s book is linked by location and also there is a single building that appears throughout the stories, even though they take place at different times. Duff’s collection is not really linked, although many of the stories take place in Texas. Both of their stories appeared in good journals. Andrews’s book was obviously linked and also many of the pieces have been published. I picked up two of these and I’m looking forward to reading them.