Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
This year's Arkansas Literary Festival packs nearly 100 authors into three short days, its organizers putting together an encyclopedic event for all tastes and habits of reading. That's a good thing, and a bad thing: Those with a broad range of interests are going to be tearing their hair out trying to decide what sessions to sacrifice.
At 10 a.m. on Saturday, for example: If you love graphic novels and are a fan of Mad Magazine, intrigued by the West Memphis Three case, a would-be member of the Mysterious Benedict Society and you lust for novels about the paranormal, you are going to want to throw Brad Mooy, festival director, into Lake Glimmerglass (as in "The Monsters of Templeton," see entry on "The Magic of Happiness and Grief" below).
Talk about stuffing things in: Competing with all of the above is a session at the Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center with Dave Madden, author of "The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy."
It only gets worse. Say you're a Renaissance person whose interests include architecture, political sneakiness, Central High, the energy industry and yoga — you'll be bent out of shape for sure come 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
The 1 p.m. that day slot puts uberwits Roy Blount and Ian Frazier up against a trio of authors who write horror and true crime stories set in Arkansas.
Then there are all the other things going on — street music, special children's events, theatrical performances, all requiring a mad dash back and forth across the Main Street Bridge.
Fortunately, the Arkansas Times' annual "Pub or Perish" (see page 22) stands alone, so everybody can show up at Lulav at 7 p.m. for early bedtime stories and poetry. The Friday schedule is better (though you'll still need a coin to flip) and Sunday schedule light, and require only that you sneak out of work or church.
It's a fine thing that the festival, the ninth annual, includes sessions for gardeners, foodies (from Mexican to meatless to cakes), historians, lepidopterists, hikers, crafters and readers of romance novels. But what's the festival to do about the logjam? Certainly not cut back on the authors. Possible: Start earlier, stagger times and move more events to Sunday. More realistically, perhaps: Take a page from the Clinton School for Public Service handbook and put video of the sessions at the festival website, arkansasliteraryfestival.com (where you can find the complete, enormous schedule and bio of all authors and presenters). Because on Saturday at least, there won't be enough hours in the day.
Here, highlights of the festival, which starts Thursday, April 12, and runs through Sunday, April 15.
Author sessions and panels
THURSDAY, APRIL 12
Placed/Displaced (Pulaski Technical College, Wills Lecture Hall, NLR, 11 a.m. reading, 12:30 a.m. discussion). Novelists and poets John Bensko (MFA Creative Writing Program, University of Memphis), Hope Coulter (Hendrix College), Tyrone Jaeger (writer-in-residence, Hendrix College) and Stephanie Vanderslice (University of Central Arkansas) will read and talk about the importance of place in writing.
John T. Edge (Clinton School for Public Service, 6 p.m.) The Southern food sage discusses his forthcoming book, "Truck Food Cookbook." More on following page.
Spoken Word Live (Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 7 p.m.). Winners of a city-wide poetry competition and other writers will read.
FRIDAY, APRIL 13
An Infinite Gastronomy (Main Library, Darragh Center, noon). "Oaxaca al Gusto" author Diana Southwood Kennedy, an expert on Mexican cuisine regional cuisine and winner of the 2011 James Beard Foundation Award for Cookbook of the Year, speaks about her cookbook (her eighth published) and her environmental work. Capital Hotel Executive Chef Lee Richardson will moderate.
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