THE DEVIL’S LEXICON: thoughts on litquake xii

(Evan Karp)

Litquake has become such a large and sprawling production it is impossible to talk about with any totality. Co-founders Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware are pros at every aspect of event production, from brainstorming to branding and marketing, for which they have the help of the inimitable Liam Passmore and an ever-growing committee of staff and volunteers. You can look at the various attempts the press has made to sum up these 9 days: [HuffPo] [Chron] [Ex] [TBC] [LAT] [SFist] [BAR] [and what are we missing?]. What do these outlets have in common? Subjectivity!

Is this a festival contingent on big-name authors? Some don’t know how else to argue. Others might point to the extremes and diversity in programming—the whackiest, least likely events and event combinations, or emissaries from other nations—as the primary focus, the heart of the festival. You can look at their announcements—if you subscribe to the mailing list you know that over the last several days Litquake’s own megaphone has promoted various highlights for each day; with an average of nearly 8 events per night, it’s impossible not to leave things out, and arbitrary seems as good a method as any in deciding what to promote, endorse, attend.

Yes, a lot of this has to do with the fact that this is the first festival since Litquake became something more than a nine-day extravaganza, programming year-round and making even the umbrella term “literary festival” something that doesn’t half-capture the thing that is “Litquake.” Just some of their many events this year included: [Maupin] [Cabaret Bastille] [Regreturature] [Epicenter (one of a monthly)]…

When I first saw Jane tonight I asked her, as I did last year at opening night, if she was ready for the next 8 days of mayhem. “I’m just anxious for tonight. I have so many things of substance that need to be done right now I’m worried I won’t be able to party.” This quote was paraphrased, but the sentiment inspired me. Not that the attendees weren’t having fun:

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But it wasn’t full-force party this year. I heard the usual question: “What are you excited about?” But not very often. In fact, mostly people were just catching up with other people. Or so it seemed. The festival has officially started, but the mayhem… that begins tomorrow at the Variety Preview Room.

Below is the schedule, but before you go scanning these events let me preview them for you: The beginning events will blow you away. They seem a little sterile because it’s early on a Saturday—same goes with Sunday’s events—and there aren’t a lot of people there very early. Also, the programs are sometimes very creative ways of grouping somewhat disparate authors together. Don’t let this fool you. I personally think the early programming on Saturday and Sunday is a great encapsulation of Litquake. Watch last year’s. Check it out:

Noon: Writing in California Prisons: Readings from four first-hand reports by men serving long sentences in California prisons. Explore the many doors and windows they present: from the reality of life behind bars to a discovery of new paths to the world they’ve observed over decades of incarceration. Kenneth E. Hartman (read by Alia Hartman), Spoon Jackson (on DVD), Jarvis Masters (read by Susan Moon), Boston Woodard (read by Jon Sievert), Judith Tannenbaum (facilitator). For a preview, check out the inmates’ answers to the inaugural questionnaire.

1pm: Bay Area Poetry: Litquake’s hour dedicated to local poets is, naturally, jam-packed with goodness: Rebecca FoustKeetje KuipersJoseph Lease [watch this], Brittany PerhamMatthew Siegel [watch this], and Greg Wrenn

2pm: Science Fiction in a Real World: Readings by Andrew Dugas [watch this], Nick MamatasMichael Meloan and Steven Meloan [watch this], and Scott Sigler

3pm: Indie/Self-Publishing: With big-box bookstores going under, traditional publishers imploding, and print-on-demand enabling everyone to create a book, is it time for writers to take control? Here from Lizann BasshamCarol CostelloW. Patrick GallagherAndrew Haskins, and Carol Verburg.

During the evenings you’re going to have to make some tough choices; the first night is no different:

7pm: Barely Published Authors: Always one of the best events of the festival (you can catch footage and thoughts from last year and the year before), this year features readings by Cynthia Cady [watch this], Pia ChatterjeeSarah FaulknerSeth Fischer [watch this], Doug HendersonJen Siraganian [watch this], Kenton K. Yee, and Salvatore Zoida [watch this]

(I suggest you watch the footage from last year and/or the one before to understand the time and care Ransom Stephens puts into his introductions. He takes this very seriously—more on this in a short, philosophical musing to follow.) [For more info]

7pm: Cross-Border Diatribes: Two figureheads of Chicano literature who approach U.S.—Mexico issues and cross-cultural identity in radically different ways will be in conversation: Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Alejandro Murguía [watch this], with musical accompaniment by Francisco Herrera. [For more info]

8pm: Thomas McGuane in conversation: From the comic pyrotechnics of his early novels, to his part in the freewheeling 1970s arts community of Livingston, Montana (including Richard Brautigan, Jim Harrison, and Sam Peckinpah), to his later works characterized by an increased connection to the natural world, McGuane is an original American writer. And you know Jack.

Are you looking forward to Sunday already? Have you planned your whole festival yet? Not so fast! Let’s just meet at the Hobart building tomorrow a bit before noon and talk about it!

See you soon…