The Observer April 21 

Hello, Joey Lauren Adams. Yes, we’re talking to you: Star of stage and screen, Joey Lauren Adams. We know it’s late and all, but can The Observer be in your movie? We feel like a jerk asking, and we know there’s probably no room at the inn at this point, but once upon a time — a mere babe in Benton, Arkansas — The Observer had a shot at being in some fool’s little waste of time and money called “Sling Blade.” We went fishing instead. So, can we? We promise we won’t stare at the camera, or make rabbit ears over Ashley Judd’s head with our fingers every time you yell “action,” or give a shout-out to Mama. Sure, we’re not pretty. But we could play something simple and mute. “Thug No. 2” maybe, or “Layabout.” “Lackey”? “Hugo”? “Menacing Man”? When it comes to looking dim, greasy and vaguely threatening, we’ve been practicing for years. So, how about it? Could you at least introduce us to Kevin Smith? The Arkansas Literacy Festival last weekend did everything right. Moved all the selling and signing and music to a central heartbeat outside the Main Library. Invited authors who talked about things people wanted to know (good combo), and put them within walking distance of each other. Friday night in the River Market district was sheer madness. There were 4,000 beer-swilling Foam Festers packed into the two River Market pavilions, dancing to loud music, foaming, and forming long lines to the pissoirs indiscreetly tucked away behind the pavilions and next to an indifferent bronze pig. Meanwhile, lit-lovers (and lit, some of them) followed, conga-line style, an imposing man lugging a speaker’s lectern from pub to pub so that they might hear prose and poetry read aloud. The bar crowd — many looking newly legal — were lined up two or three deep at the money machines getting more dinero to spend at the many watering holes along Clinton Avenue. At one point, merry, seemingly adult, revelers at Willy D’s were gustily singing “drove my Chevy to the levee.” We paused to take in the scene: Foaming Fest-goers, a motorcycle contingent, bar hoppers, a man with a lectern, all passing back and forth on a street under a library whose roof top lights illuminated the names “Lao Tzu” and “Shakespeare” and “Dr. Seuss.” Something for everyone. On Saturday, as we watched William Buckley signing a copy of his autobiography, a friend next to us — not a fan of Buckley’s — put his hand over his mouth and whispered: “You know what I do sometimes when I see a book at a bookstore that I don’t like? I turn it over so only the back shows.” He was pleased with himself, and so was The Observer. National Public Radio’s Book Guys — how could they be any fun? How could anyone enjoy watching people you don’t know haul books you’ve never read or even heard of up to a table where sit a couple of guys who go on and on in language that includes words like “verso”? Well, The Observer isn’t exactly sure why, but attending a taping of the radio program “The Book Guys” is a gas. The guys — Allan Stypeck and Mike Cuthbert — are funny off radio, funny on radio, and they can make a 1930s manual for railroad engineers sound like “Lady Chatterly’s Lover.” That may be a stretch, but still, there is something intensely appealing about watching people handle books they love. At the Darragh Center on Thursday night, as a kick-off to the Literary Festival, the Guys taped two programs. As we waited for the second to begin, a man edging by us on my row stopped to ask for a breath mint — a complete stranger, mind you — but we offered him one and inquired if he were a little nervous about being on national radio. He said no (we guess he just asks anyone he sees for a breath mint) and then — breathlessly in fact — he told us that his book, “The Book of Joy” or something like that, was the best book he’d ever read except for the Bible. (No, it wasn’t the “Joy of Sex,” it really was an authoritative-looking, leather-bound, gold-scripted tome whose worth we didn’t get to stay long enough to learn.) Everyone in the room had packed in a ton of books to run by the Book Guys, and Cuthbert and Stypeck commented that every time they come to Arkansas they see fabulous books. Why? they asked. One man explained — because there weren’t any here when we got here, so we took good care of the ones we brought.


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