Notes from LA Book Festival

Just back from Los Angeles where I spoke at LA Times Festival of Books. The event was a weekend of pure joy. Huge crowds, brilliant panels, proof (if anyone needs it) that the physical book in its militantly analog form remains as innovative and seductive as it has ever been.

My own entertaining panel about literary blogging with Tod Goldberg, Carolyn Kellog and Ron Hogan was covered by both Tod and Carolyn. See also this provocative perspective on the panel from BookFox.

I was delighted that Lawrence Wright won the Festival's History Book award for his meticulously researched and highly readable Looming Tower. I was thrilled to interview Wright on afterTV and consider it essential listening for anyone interested in al Qaeda. Other afterTV alums speaking at the festival included the ubiquitous Arianna Huffington and ABC's Mark Halperin.

The most memorable panels were "The Age of Spin" in which the witty Frank Luntz ran rings around Joe Conason, David Goodman and Michael Isikoff. When will the American left wake up to the fact that creative self-promotion and self-effacing humor are the key to winning any political debate. I also really enjoyed both the "Future of News" and the "Future of Publishing" panels which were thankfully free of messianic faith in either citizen media or the digital book.

The highpoint of the whole show for me, however, was a long dinner conversation with the Californian writer Oakley Hall and his delightful wife Barbara. Hall is the author of many works of fiction (including the classic western Warlock) and the founder of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. I'm really looking forward to reading his latest novel, Love and War in California, which the LA Times said brought back the dark post Pearl Harbor years in California in a "real and urgent" way.

The only were the crazy 9/11 conspiracy theorists at some of the Festival panels. These lunatics -- and there are disturbingly large number of them -- dominated the questions from the audience both in the Future of News and The Age of Spin. So much for the wisdom of the crowd. Seems like there all-too-many people out there who believe that the American government planned 9/11. They should all be locked in a library and forced to read the Looming Tower.