Politics, history, biography, fiction, cooking and kids’ events will make their 18th annual creative collision today as the Texas Book Festival wraps up at the Capitol and on the surrounding grounds.
Among the highlights will be appearances by two of Austin’s finest writers, Lawrence Wright and Stephen Harrigan. But many more are on the program, including Washington Post reporter Dan Balz, acclaimed short story writer Sherman Alexie, essayist and New Yorker staff member Margaret Talbot.
To help you navigate today’s events, the American-Statesman has broken down some of the appearances by topic, with brief explanations of who’s who and what you can expect. As with every festival since the inaugural event in 1996, the public can attend for free. This year’s festival, which has become one the nation’s most prominent, is expected to attract more than 40,000 people downtown.
For more details about events and to check out our earlier coverage, including our special section that published Wednesday, visit www.statesman.com/books.
History, current affairs
One of this festival’s biggest events will feature Taya Kyle, widow of “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle, and David Finkel, author of “Thank You for Your Service.” The treatment of American soldiers, especially those who suffer from the aftermath of war, will be the main topic. Native Texan Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL who became known as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, and his story made “American Sniper” a best-seller. But he was shot and killed at a Texas shooting range by a troubled veteran on Feb. 2. Finkel, meanwhile, looks at the lives of soldiers who come home with ghosts and guilt. In a review, the Los Angeles Times said: “It is a book that every American should read to understand why our easily offered expressions of gratitude — as suggested by the book’s title — are insufficient. Whatever one thinks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we as a society in no small way caused this pain and inflicted these scars. Trying to understand is the very least we can do.” (11 a.m., House Chamber).
If the House Chamber fills up quickly, there are other good options. One of the best will be a session featuring Austin historian Jeffrey Stuart Kerr, author of “Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas,” and Mark Binelli, whose latest is “Detroit City Is the Place to Be.” Kerr’s book looks at the dispute between Mirabeau Lamar, who wanted the capital to be Austin, and Sam Houston, who thought the city faced way too many frontier dangers. Binelli, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal, thinks that his birthplace might be able to make a comeback, despite the current ruins. Are there lessons for Austin to learn from Detroit’s boom-and-bust cycle? (11 a.m., C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent).
For a change of pace, you might want to try a session on the Italian Renaissance. Philip Bobbitt will talk about his new book, “The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made,” with Michael Ennis, author of “The Malice of Fortune,” a novel about the period. (11 a.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.012).
The Washington Post’s Balz will team up with Richard Wolffe for a wide-ranging discussion of politics and President Obama. Balz’s latest book is “Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America,” which views the last presidential race as one of our most contentious — and crucial — elections in recent history. Wolffe, author of “The Message: The Reselling of President Obama,” will focus on how the team around the president tried to reshape his message and win reelection, despite a dismal economy and significant internal disputes in the administration. Wolffe is the executive editor of MSNBC.com and former senior White House correspondent for Newsweek. (Noon, C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent).
One of Austin’s finest prose stylists, Harrigan, will talk about his new essay collection, “The Eye of the Mammoth.” In a review, Publishers Weekly wrote: “These pieces convey a deep and rewarding connection with place” and reach “across the history of Texas, both natural and cultural.” (12:15 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.012).
Things will get a bit steamy later in the day, when Betsy Prioleau, author of “Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them,” teams up with Shannon McKenna Schmidt, author of “Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads.” (3:15 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.026).
If you prefer a little less sex talk, there’s nothing less sexy than utilities. But Kate Galbraith and the American-Statesman’s Asher Price still make the subject interesting in their new book, “The Great Texas Wind Rush.” (3:15 p.m., C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent).
Legal affairs take precedence in a session dubbed Texas Law. It’ll deal with the colorful history of Texas, with James Haley, author of “The Texas Supreme Court: A Narrative History, 1836-1986,” and Peter R. Rose, author of “The Reckoning: The Triumph of Order on the Texas Outlaw Frontier.” (3:45 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.030).
History will become even more entertaining with an event called “In Context: Finding Your Place in History.” The two panelists are Nick Kotz, author of “The Harness Maker’s Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas,” and Margaret Talbot, author of “The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century.” Talbot’s father, Lyle, appeared in hundreds of Hollywood movies with such stars as Ginger Rogers and Carole Lombard. (4 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.016).
No Texas political discussion can ignore what’s going on south of the border. In the “Border Politics” panel, Ricardo Ainsle, author of “The Fight to Save Juarez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War,” will discuss Mexico’s drug war with Dallas Morning News reporter Alfredo Corchado, author of “Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness.” (4:15 p.m., C-SPAN/Book TV Tent).
The biggest biographical discussion at this year’s festival is bound to come with a session provocatively titled “Cults of Personality.” New Yorker writer and Austin resident Lawrence Wright, author of “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” will talk about the powerful pull of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Fort Worth author Jeff Guinn, meanwhile, will discuss another kind of charismatic personality. He’s the author of “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson.” (3 p.m., House Chamber).
There’s always room for music at any Austin festival. Terry Teachout, an arts writer for the Wall Street Journal, will dive into the topic of jazz orchestras while talking about his latest, “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.” (12:15 p.m., Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004).
Two writers who study writers will get together for the session called “Biographies, Biographers.” Jerome Loving, author of “Confederate Bushwhacker: Mark Twain in the Shadow of the Civil War,” will talk with Linda Leavell, who has been studying the life of Marianne Moore for nearly three decades. (12:30 p.m., the Contemporary — Jones Center).
Byron Reese believes that technology will help lead to a much better world. And he’ll discuss his new book, “Infinite Progress: How the Internet and Technology Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger, and War.” (1 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.016). For a different perspective, you might want to attend the panel featuring Alan Weisman, author of “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?” (2:15 p.m., C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent).
John Taliaferro and H.W. Brands are two of the top historians in Texas. (And Brands is one of the most prolific.) Their session focuses on Taliaferro’s “All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt,” and Brands’ “The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace.” (1:15 p.m., C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent).
Norman Mailer reportedly believed that there were two people living inside all of us. And the controversial author seemed to live his life that way. That’s the argument that J. Michael Lennon makes in “Norman Mailer: A Double Life.” (1:30 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.012).
Another session deals with the notion of creating identity. It will include Elena Passarello, author of “Let Me Clear My Throat: Essays,” and Jessica Grogan, author of “Encountering America: Humanistic Psychology, Sixties Culture, and the Shaping of the Modern Self.” (2 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.026). Former Austin writer Marion Winik, meanwhile, will explore how life changes by discussing her amusing memoir, “Highs in the Low Fifties: How I Stumbled through the Joys of Single Living.” (1:45 p.m., House Chamber).
Music and movies take center stage in three different panels. David Ensminger, will talk about “Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons.” (1 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.014). A bit later, Dean Blackwood and Scott Blackwood will discuss a new collaboration with Jack White’s Third Man Records called “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records (1917-32),” a two-volume omnibus of words, images and music in a limited edition — the first volume of which is to be released Nov. 19. (2:30 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.014.) And Austin author and journalist Glenn Frankel will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the classic film “The Searchers,” starring John Wayne. (3:45 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.014).
Journalist Stephen Rodrick’s father, Peter, was a Navy pilot who died when his plane crashed in the Indian Ocean in 1979. In “The Magical Stranger,” Rodrick explores the life of his father, who spent much of his time away from home while on duty. (3:30 p.m., Lone Star Tent).
Three different sessions at 11 a.m. will feature some lively examples of recent fiction. In Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004, Jess Walter will talk about “Beautiful Ruins,” which deals with a relationship that begins in 1962 in Italy. Publisher’s Weekly called the book a “well-constructed … quirky and entertaining tale of greed, treachery, and love.” San Antonio author Paulette Jiles, the author of “Lighthouse Island,” focuses on dystopian fiction, when water is so scarce that it has to be rationed and animals are nearly extinct. She’ll team up with Robert Antoni, whose latest is “As Flies to Whatless Boys.” (Capitol Extension Room E2.026). And Shawn Vestal, author of the short story collection “Godforsaken Idaho,” is paired with Manil Suri, author of “The City of Devi,” in Capitol Extension Room E2.030.
Anne Hillerman, the daughter of beloved Navajo mystery writer Tony Hillerman, continues the family tradition with “Spider Woman’s Daughter.” (11:45 a.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.016). And two authors who incorporate folklore into their fiction will pair up at 12:30 p.m. They’re Daniel Wallace, author of “Big Fish,” whose latest is “The Kings and Queens of Roam,” and Catherine Chung, author of “Forgotten Country.” (Capitol Extension Room E2.030).
Kelly Luce, author of “Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail,” and Manuel Gonzales, author of “The Miniature Wife and Other Stories,” will talk about using magical realism and other kinds of techniques in their fiction. Both writers live in Austin. (12:30 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.026).
It’s bound to be a big year for Washington state writer Sherman Alexie, whose latest is the short story collection “Blasphemy.” It’s also the 20th anniversary of his classic, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” Expect a big crowd and arrive early. (1:15 p.m., Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004).
Dallas’ Ben Fountain has quickly become one of the state’s most lauded writers, especially after the success of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” This year, he’s one of the contributors to a collection of short stories called “Dallas Noir.” He’ll appear with James Hime and Kathleen Kent, the Texas writer whose latest is “The Outcasts.” Of Kent’s novel, Publishers Weekly wrote: “The fates of a newly minted lawman, a former prostitute, and the promise of buried gold collide in Kent’s gripping third novel.” (2 p.m., Lone Star Tent).
A session called “On the Fringe” looks at three authors who deal with unusual or fantastical topics. They are Stephen Graham Jones, author of “Flushboy”; Chris Terry, author of “Zero Fade”; and Neal Pollack, author of “Open Your Heart (A Matt Bolster Yoga Mystery).” (2:30 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.030). And two writers about the U.S. border with Mexico will close the day’s fiction sessions. They’re Adam Mansbach, author of “The Dead Run,” and Michael Glasscock, author of “Utopia, Texas.” (3 p.m., Capitol Extension Room E2.012).
There’s always plenty of food at the festival. But a lot of people go to hear people talk about cooking. Today’s lineup is as follows: “The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue,’ Daniel Vaughn (11 a.m., Lone Star Tent); “The Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook,” with Addie Broyles of the American-Statesman (11 a.m., Cooking Tent); “The Beekman Boys,” with Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, authors of “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden” (12:30 p.m., Cooking Tent); Robb Walsh, author of “Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey” (2 p.m., Cooking Tent); and Joe Yonan, author of “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook” (3:30 p.m., Cooking Tent).
And don’t forget the kids. One of the biggest events will be Lemony Snicket at 12:15 p.m. in the House Chamber. But if you’re a young-adult fan, you might want to attend a panel called “Move Over, Katniss: New Heroines.” It will include Aprilynne Price, author of “Earthbound”; P.J. Hoover, author of “Solstice”; Tracy Deebs, author of “Doomed”; and Amy Rose Capetta, author of “Entangled.” (12:15 p.m., Lone Star Tent). Numerous authors will also be present all day at the Children’s Read Me a Story Tent at 13th and Colorado streets.