If one needs a welcoming indication of Spring, other than pretty nature photos on one’s calendar or the insane, chattering mockingbirds behind my home in the Sherman Oaks hills, there is always the L.A. Times Festival of Books, which completed its 12th incarnation April 27-28.
Among the vendor booths and panels, I found Jason Reitman, writer-director of the brilliant film satire Thank You for Smoking, based on Christopher Buckley’s novel, signing and giving away copies of the screenplay at the Writers Guild Foundation booth. Newmarket Press has published the shooting script.
Emmy-winning writer Merrill Markoe, author of It’s My F—ing Birthday, brightened a humorous fiction panel with her wacky perambulations on dogs, which she insists “are like exhange students from Neptune.” She sensed that if a dog were a songwriter, he/she would write songs like “I’ll Never Stop Saying Hello.” She claims her mother’s earliest reaction to Markoe’s writing was to say, “Well, I don’t happen to care for it but I pray I’m wrong.”
The abyss in Iraq and America’s future was on the minds of many of the 463 authors at the FOB. Chris Hedges, whose latest work is American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, participated in two panels, excoriating “a theology of despair, a pornographic vision of violence, portrayed in the Left Behind series.” Robert Scheer, author and editor of TruthDig.com, shared one of these panels with Hedges on Iraq. “We do care about the oil and exploiting it. Our contractors have ripped them off every which way to Sunday. That’s what’s going on with this reconstruction. There are industries in this country that benefit from war.”
Every year, I look forward to a science panel and the L.A. Times’ own K.C. Cole (Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos) recalled the recently passed Kurt Vonnegut and his exceptional writing on evolution in Galapagos, as well as Cole’s mentor, J. Robert’s little brother Frank Oppenheimer, who said, “Artists and scientists are the official noticers of society. They notice things other people either don’t look at or are not trained to see.” A tribute to Cole and the tenacity of the writer: She sent her first article to an editor at the NY Times Magazine, got rejected, sent it to a second editor there and wound up on the cover.