Halloween in Madison is famous for its debauchery as college kids descend from all over the Midwest. I, thankfully, live on the East Side, away from the drunken hordes of frat boys and scantily clad coeds. I will be sugar-loading the trick-or-treater set before turning off the porch light and watching a Netflick.
Speaking of freakfests, the Wisconsin Book Festival came to a close last Sunday. I admit I am a terrible listener and often zone out during readings, though I do like to make judgments about sincerity, if I would be friends with the person, outfit choice, etc. Here are some festival highlights:
Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, and critic Gary K. Wolfe had a panel discussion about genre fiction or whatever you want to call it. I haven't read any of their books (I haven't read horror since reading Stephen King as a teenager) but it was interesting to hear them talk about the term genre, both defensive and proud, it seemed, and how they view their work. Seeing the crowd was half the fun. Gaiman ? always in his black leather jacket despite the heat of the stage lights ? had a legion of devoted goth fans. I had met Peter Straub at a party the night before and one great thing about him is that he never misses, and has a guest role as a blind policeman on, the soap opera One Life to Live.
Michael Chabon: His self-effacing, unstudied charm was a bit studied for my taste but I guess you have to cultivate some schtick when you're famous and give a lot of readings. (He wore a cardigan, which I also had to get over.) He said Wonder Boys was the favorite of all his books, which made me like him more because it's mine too.
Ted Kooser: Midwest incarnate. Avuncular, nice, and a compelling reader of his lovely poems, swallowed up in his too-big corduroy blazer.
Jane Hamilton: I liked her manic energy. She read a funny essay about writing a high school English paper on Heart of Darkness for her daughter the night before it was due using Cliff Notes. She got a B-.
Dan Chaon: Not at all whom I would have imagined. I was expecting a quiet guy from Nebraska. He was endearingly nerdy and energetic as he read from a new story and acted out the different voices.
Dean Bakopoulos: A hometown favorite, talented and gracious. He read a section of an affecting story from the current issue of Virginia Quarterly Review. I was particularly impressed because I no longer seem able to write stories.
Happy All Hallowed Eve!