This year’s Portland Book Festival really seemed to work. The weather was outstanding! (That’s not something Literary Arts could control, but it was still nice.) The festival was crowded, but more manageable than previous years. At festivals this popular, attendees sometimes can’t even stop at booths because the river of people sweeps them along, but I was able to stop at tables and talk to the local and visiting presses. All this manageability was not due to a lack of crowds or new faces. The passionate readers of the Pacific Northwest showed up for literature (and Tom Hanks).
PANELS ARE THE HIGHLIGHT:
Panels and on-stage conversations are the highlight of the Portland Book Festival, more than the book fair itself, more than the food carts. For the Survivor: Women at the End of the World panel, the Whitsell Auditorium was so crowded that an usher helped people find single seats. By the time I realized I was sitting next to a talkative person who hated both the New York Times and affirmative action, I couldn’t leave without exiting the event entirely. Thankfully, they fell asleep as the presentation began.
Lidia Yuknavich is a charming moderator and should always be in charge of crowds. She asked questions of Aminder Dhaliwal (Woman World), Ling Ma (Severance) and Leni Zumas (Red Clocks) on topics such as the politics of women's bodies in the futures they imagined and whether all the futures presented were dystopias. Dhaliwal was the only author that argued her cartoon vision of a woman-only post-apocalyptic society might be a vision of misunderstood utopia.
After an attendee asked if any of the authors considered their readers who were men (Daliwal: "No." Ma: "I wrote this book for me." Zumas: "No."), Yuknavitch interjected, "All of the women in this room have been asked to identify with male characters for their whole lives." It was the perfect thing for a moderator to point out and I wished the person next to me wasn't sleeping.