Hey there. I'm visiting my cousin in West Virginia this weekend. When I texted her last week to ask what I should bring, she said Penny (my dog) and my hiking boots. A year ago, I didn't own hiking boots. Hell, two months ago, I didn't own hiking boots. But when you have an adventurous cousin and you're coming off such a bad year that you've decided to just say yes, your footwear options expand accordingly.
Yesterday was beautiful—clear skies, sixty degrees—and my cousin said, "I'm taking you to the gorge."
The week before last, Charlottesville hosted the 24th annual Virginia Festival of the Book, an event that gets better and better each year. Last year we had more than 30,000 attendees (this year's numbers aren't in yet.) I'm proud to participate, usually by moderating a panel or two. This year the pairings were outstanding—the festival team puts a lot of thought into the programs—and my panelists were superb.
1. My first panel—SRO at New Dominion Bookshop, the oldest indie bookstore in Virginia—was with Jessie van Eerden and Thomas Mira y Lopez. Jessie's newest book, The Long Weeping, is a collection of portraits, or "portals," as she refers to them, of figures living, dead, historical, and fictional. She was paired with Thomas, whose essay collection, The Book of Resting Places, was borne of his search for understanding of what happens postmortem around the world, following his own father's death. The three of us had a wide-ranging conversation and when I left for my next event they were both still signing books.
2. You may have heard of Carmen Maria Machado—she's taking the literary world by storm with her first book, Her Body and Other Parties. She and Eric Puchner (Puck-ner) joined me for a discussion of short fiction after they mesmerized the audience by reading from their books. Carmen read from "The Resident." Eric read from "Mothership," in his new collection, Last Day on Earth. The panel went over like gangbusters, and both Carmen and Eric sold out of books. I'm sorry you missed both programs.
3. I'd also like to recommend a few other books from festival authors: Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young; Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture by Mark Fallon; and Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu.
4. "Trans women are in danger, and the clock has run out on debates among feminists about whether we are really women, whether we should be included and whether we should be rendered second-class status. Feminism today must face the reality that trans women are being murdered around the world simply for existing, for breathing the air and walking in the streets."* —Mischa Haider, "Transphobia is Not a Feminist Value"
*Charlottesville's own Sage Smith has been missing for more than five years.
Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.