After the by-now-familiar 6.15 pickup and five hours of flying, I was picked up at the Austin airport by first-time Escort Jill Wilkinson, who was doing this task as a volunteer for the enormously popular Texas Book Festival – started by Laura Bush when she was the Governor’s First Lady. (“Governess?” No, I guess not. Not Jane Eyre.)
By this time I was toppling over with fatigue, but Jill was more than friendly and helpful, and so were all the folks in the Omni Austin Hotel, who’d been to Friendliness School. By the time Jill and I had snatched a quick bite (and some, yes! Organic coffee!), attended by super-efficient and courteous serverfolk, I felt I was in the Disney Cinderella scene in which all the birds are lending a beak to get Cinders ready for the ball, while trilling with cheerful joy. I was so groggy I did not snap a picture of Capuccino Man, or of Omelette Man the next morning – my two superheroes of the Omni – but they know who they are.
The event was at the Paramount Theatre, and it was, well, full. It took the form of an onstage conversation with my youthful Moderator, Ben Moser, author of what looks to be a fascinating book about Clarice Lispector, Why This World.
(Here follows the Wiki entry-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarice_Lispector) “Clarice Lispector (December 10, 1920 – December 9, 1977) was a Brazilian writer. Acclaimed internationally for her innovative novels and short stories, she was also a journalist and a translator. A legendary figure in Brazil, renowned for her uncommon and unique writing style, her great personal beauty… and her eccentric personality, Clarice is now considered one of the two most outstanding Brazilian prose writers of the twentieth century.”) Ben looked altogether too young to be the author of such a serious work, let alone the book editor of Harper’s Magazine – which he also is — but was not displeased to be told so, commenting only that he maybe had only a few more years of that sort of thing. We had a jolly time of it onstage, followed by some Qs and As, and then I signed books.
Then I signed more books.Then I signed some more books, and lest things get monotonous, I signed yet more books.Even the Barnes & Noble booksellers were looking at their watches – when would they be able to pack up and go home? Texans, your enthusiasm, your waiting-in-line stamina, and your hunger for the novelistic word are truly humbling.
My old friend and avid reader Coleen Grissom of San Antonio made the right call when she said she didn’t intend to drive for hours, cram herself into the theatre, then stand in line for more hours just to say Hi.
Then Jill took me back to the Omni, where I fell over. All those who’ve been making book on when I would finally do that, you just won your bets. It wasn’t permanent, however. Next morning, there I was, alive again. Missed Hallowe’en, though. Rats. When will we three meet again? Next year, Fellow Broomsters. I’ll be there then. In one form or another.