National Book Festival 2014

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I was pleased to be able to get to NatBookFest last weekend.  One day at the Washington convention center isn’t much of a match for two days on the Mall, but they did a great job of making it go with a swing nevertheless.  Here’s a quick summary of my personal highlights.

Claire Messud was funny, charming and honest.  A great reading from The Woman Upstairs made me add it to my mental wish list, which I guess is the point.  On advice for writers, her theme was that you must ignore what the neighbors say.  In other words, go and do your art regardless of whether it makes an acceptable answer at cocktail parties.

Siri Hustvedt apparently hangs out with neuroscientists and has lots of interesting things to say about the workings of the human brain.  On the age-old question of the connection between the artistic brain and mental illness, she suggested that the only difference between creativity and madness is self-management.

Alice McDermott was terrific and humble and wise.  I loved her story about journalists assuming she’s not as intelligent as they thought when they discover she’s a practicing Catholic.  She had some fascinating things to say about memories and story-telling, which she encapsulated like this: ‘memories are the stories we tell to ourselves’.

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