This time next week, you'll likely find me stumbling along the sidewalks of Missoula, Montana: glassy-eyed, disheveled and unkempt, probably slurring my words. And that's before I start drinking!
Instead, I will be drunk on words and the writers who write them.
Yes, boys and girls, it's time once again for the Montana Festival of the Book, the annual book shin-dig put on by Humanities Montana. This will be my third Fest and I'm especially excited by this year's line-up, which includes Jonathan Evison, Alan Heathcock, Shann Ray, Melanie Rae Thon, Bonnie Jo Campbell and James Lee Burke. Click here for the full list of presenters.*
Each year, I come away with new books and fresh discoveries of writers I should be reading--last Fest it was Brian Hart and Robert Wrigley. This week, I'm looking forward to meeting my next favorite author in Missoula--the one I don't yet know I need to know. And that's what book festivals are all about, right? Elbow-rubbing and networking aside, events like this are concentrated capsules of time when readers come together with writers, each of them discovering new things about the other. It's like speed-dating for word-nerds.
The lit-love begins Thursday night with a presentation of the Distinguished Achievement Award to Thomas McGuane. The author/rancher/reformed party animal hasn't always been the darling of western literature circles--his comic skewering of the cowboy stereotype has been viewed askance by some who prefer their myths un-busted--so it's especially gratifying to see he'll be appreciated for his underappreciated work over the years.
This year, the Montana Festival of the Book runs simultaneously with the Western Literature Association's annual conference. This will be the cause of my staggering fuzzy-headed through the lobby of the Holiday Inn. I mean, how is a guy like me expected to choose between a presentation of papers on Norman Maclean and a reading from West of Here by Jonathan Evison? System overload!
Once I've recovered, I hope to have a report for you here at the blog (though it probably won't be as long and detailed as last year's report).
*Humanities Montana very kindly invited me to moderate two panels: one on book blogging with Craig Lancaster, Jenny Shank and Keir Graff; the other on the current state of the short story with Alan Heathcock, Shann Ray, Melanie Rae Thon and Glen Chamberlain.