Tag Archives: Yann Martel

Everybody Loves a Festival: L.A. Times Festival of Books 2010 Recap

L.A. Times Festival Map

On Saturday I attended the L.A. Times Festival of Books. This is an annual event here in L.A. and I have to say, each year it seems to be a bit more popular than the previous year. The crowds always amaze me. So many book lovers all in one place. It made me want to sway to a 70’s song and wave a BIC lighter. Except, I don’t smoke and it wasn’t dark and there wasn’t any 70’s music to be found. That being said, it was still cool. 

For years and years I attended the event but never attended any of the panels. Last year was my first year doing that and it added another level of excitement to the day so I decided to do it again this year. I always feel a little nerdy being around authors that I admire but that’s okay. 

Life Stories Panel

The first panel that I attended is the Fiction: Life Stories panel. This panel included Rafael Yglesias, Paul Harding and Colson Whitehead and was moderated by David Kipen. As you may know, Paul Harding’s Tinkers, just won the Pulitzer for Fiction so there was a great deal of enthusiasm from the audience over the book. Mr. Harding, in sharing his reaction over the news,  said that he was flabbergasted because the book had been turned down by many before getting published. I found his humor charming.

Conversely, Rafael Yglesias had his first book published at the age of 17 and never even finished high school. He’s since wrote several books and although they are all fictionalized to a degree, they do mirror his personal life story (hence the title of panel). 

Colson Whitehead was asked how he could have written such a believable protagonist in Sag Harbor and his response surprised me. I expected him to say that he wrote what he knew, but his response was quite the opposite. He said that he feels compelled to write about what he doesn’t know and that sometimes he gets it’s wrong but that ultimately is comes down to lots of practice. 

David Kipen did a fantastic job. This panel was interesting and the conversation flowed naturally. He pointed out similarities when he noticed them and drew conclusions when possible and he was handsome and funny while doing it. I sort of had a little bit of a crush on him by the end of the panel. 

In Conversation with Dave Eggers

The next event I attended was a conversation between Dave Eggers and David Ulin. I decided to attend this panel because my book club’s pick for next month is Zeitoun and I was hoping to pick-up a little bit of background on it. He didn’t talk too much about his books although he briefly mentioned What is the What when a member of the audience asked him a question about it.

No, this conversation was geared towards the publishing industry, mainly the creation of McSweeny’s and 826. I knew of McSweeny’s but I wasn’t aware of Egger’s tie to it and 826 was brand new to me. It was an interesting conversation that pretty much focused on the importance of writing and what a difference it can make in a young person’s life. Eggers asked if anyone would be willing to volunteer since 826 has a local chapter in Venice, California. If you’d like to learn more about 826 or would like to volunteer (there are chapters all over), click here. 

In Conversation with Yann Martel

For my 3pm panel, I was torn. I had printed off two tickets to two different events. I wanted to see Gabrielle Burton, author of Impatient with Desire but I had just recently reviewed Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil and because his book has gotten so many conflicting reviews, I felt the need to attend his panel to see what he had to say about his book.

Let me tell you, he said many beautiful things during this panel. I was tweeting them the entire time and found myself in awe over him. At one point during the conversation, an audience member stood up and admitted that she at one point thought that Life of Pi was a true story. Everyone kind of squirmed in their seats over it but he said that Life of Pi IS a true story. That “art is true.” I pondered that awhile. At another point in the conversation, he said that “literature puts you in the skin of someone else.” So true. I tried to get a better photo of him, one where he did not look bored but he sort of looked bored throughout the entire conversation although I didn’t get that impression from him at all.  

Michael Silverblatt of KCRW’s Bookworm did a fabulous job of fielding questions and asked several thought-provoking questions of his own. If you are not familiar with him he can seem a bit over-the-top, but I really enjoy his commentary. He also shared that Life of Pi is in production with Ang Lee directing. Hearing all this talk about Life of Pi has me wanting to pick up the book again. I enjoyed Beatrice and Virgil but did not enjoy Life of Pi the first time around. 

The Bloggers

Can you guess what the best part was? Meeting up with other bloggers. I included this photo as it is the only one I had of the group but it’s not the greatest (I look horrid and people are hidden) but then again, I didn’t take it. See how quick I am to blame the nice waitress that took it for us?

Going clockwise from the bottom left:

Mark from Random Ramblings from Sunny Southern CA,  Florinda of The 3 R’s, Thea from The Book Smugglers, Lisa from Books on the Brain (with her oldest daughter who was hiding), Danielle of There’s a Book (along with her husband), Leah’s Mom (forgot your name, so sorry!) and Leah of Amused by Books, Amy of My Friend Amy, Jill/Softdrink of Fizzy Thoughts,  and me.

If you care to know what I bought while there, check out this post.

It was a lot of fun. I wish every day could be spent hanging out with friends, shopping for books and listening to authors you love. Maybe I’ll see some of you there next year.  

Review: Beatrice and Virgil

Beatrice and Virgil
Yann Martel
Random House
April 13, 2010
224pp

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Fate takes many forms. . . .

When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey—named Beatrice and Virgil—and the epic journey they undertake together.

With all the spirit and originality that made Life of Pi so beloved, this brilliant new novel takes the reader on a haunting odyssey. On the way Martel asks profound questions about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity.

The Short of It:

Innocent at first, Beatrice and Virgil leaves a dark smudge on a seemingly white page. It’s disturbing and odd and I have to say it…brilliant.

The Rest of It:

This book blew my mind.

Henry the writer, meets Henry the taxidermist but the taxidermist is also a writer and has written a play about a donkey named Beatrice. and a howler monkey named Virgil.  Beatrice and Virgil have long discussions about life, both the good and the bad but there’s a problem. The taxidermist needs the writer’s help in completing the play as the characters are not as fully fleshed out as they could be.

This passage appears on page 80 of the ARC that I have:

Henry: Off the top of my head, without any preparation or much thought, I’d say Virgil has the pleasing dimensions of a smaller dog, neither too bulky nor too slight. I’d say he has a handsome head, with a short snout, luminous reddish-brown eyes, small black ears, and a clear black face—actually, it’s not just black—a clear bluish-black face fringed with a full, elegant beard.

Taxidermist: Very good. Much better than what I have. Please continue.

The play continues to unfold in this manner. The taxidermist tosses out  a bit of info here and there and Henry the writer, takes it all in, provides help when he can and finds himself completely obsessed with the stuffed animals that this play centers around. Additionally, Henry the writer recently wrote a book of his own that bombed in a big way so helping in this manner is sort of like writing, but not.

I won’t say much more about the plot as you must experience it on your own, but it touches on the interaction between humans and animals, humans and other humans and the fact that evil comes in all forms. Once you figure out what is going on, and where the story is going, you continue to turn the pages with dread but somehow find yourself unable to stop. Martel dangles the carrot so to speak, and you can’t help but take a nibble.

I’d like to warn you that although this book is not overly graphic, it is disturbing and dark and will leave you feeling overwhelmed with emotion. After reading it, I immediately deemed it brilliant but then felt silly for saying so, as I’m not sure the author’s intent was to write something brilliant. I know that sounds odd because most writers probably strive to be brilliant, but it’s so subtle. Whether that was the intent or not, it WAS brilliant and odd and different from anything I’ve ever read. Beatrice and Virgil will be on my list of favorites for 2010.

Beatrice and Virgil officially comes out on April 13, 2010 but you can pre-order it now.

Source: This ARC was sent to me by Random House via Shelf Awareness.