Festival of Books Diary: Late Saturday

By Neal Comment


4 p.m.: Sat in on the Q&A session for one of the fiction panels, where one of the audience members actually walked up to the microphone and asked the archetypal stupid audience question: whether the authors used a pen or a computer to write their stories. To her credit, Susan Vreeland tells the woman her question is irrelevant. Afterwards, I wander through the exhibitor booths and find James Ellroy at the Mystery Bookstore, signing books with Megan Abbott, Jason Starr, and Theresa Schwegel.

5 p.m.: Drop in on the Hollywood panel, mostly because I want to meet Peter Biskind and see if he has any nice things to say about the copy of The Stewardess Is Flying the Plane I sent him back in 2005. This plan fails miserably, as once the panel is over, about half a dozen other audience members want a piece of Biskind, too, but he does tell me he recognizes the title before some guy starts to tell him about the short film he’s produced and how he’s trying to get it at film festivals. The Q&A session here is notable for replacing all the usual questions about how to get a literary agent with how to get an acting job. Also, an airbrained ultraliberal claims that 300 is pro-Bush propaganda about the Greeks invading Persia to bring democracy to the Middle East (hint: that’s not even close to the actual plot), then asks Biskind and LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan why we don’t have any films challenging America’s politics like we did back in the ’70s. “Syriana?” I call out from the middle of the hall. “Michael Moore?” shouts the woman behind me. Biskind charitably notes that “there’s a real animus against political films,” but also points out that it takes time to create a film in response to current events. Well, the left-wing nut continues, aren’t these movies desensitizing Americans? “Americans are already desensitized,” says Turan. “I wish our only problem was 300.”