COVER- Bringing sexy back: The <i>Hook</i>'s hot lit picks at the Book Fest

The Virginia Festival of the Book has always been a ground breaker, and this year it ups the ante with a Tantric sex workshop.


"We've had sex several years in a row," says Festival organizer Nancy Damon, referring, one hopes, to Festival readings and speeches. She notes that the Festival has also sponsored workshops– writing workshops. But a Tantric practices workshop? 

"Did you know the U.S. poet laureate is coming?" responds a sidestepping Damon.

It's very exciting that the country's top poet, Charles Simic, will be here (8pm March 28), of course, but back to Tantric sex at the 14th Virginia Festival of the Book. Patricia Johnson and Mark Michaels lead the March 29 workshop, which costs $50, at Studio 206. Start with the free "Intro to Tantra" at 8pm March 28.

And for your convenience, the Festival schedules a nooner with UVA sexpert Anita Clayton, who dishes the goods on "Ready and Satisfied: Women, Motherhood and Intimacy in Later Life."

Despite common wisdom that says Americans don't read anymore, more than 20,000 attendees have gone to Festival events over the past few years. And that was without a Tantric workshop. 

This year's March 26-30 Festival has more authors– 365– and more events– 155 for adults plus dozens geared toward kids– than ever before.

Start with a book bag on the Festival website at, which makes it easy to organize which events to take in. On first pass, our shopping bag held 53 programs, so whittling down will be necessary. 

Unless you already have a ticket, forget the headliner luncheon, which sells out in about two minutes. This year's speaker is author Jan Karon, who's written the popular Mitford series about a priest. Gone, too, are Crime Wave luncheon tickets with David Ignatius on March 29, but there are plenty of free events for mystery-lovers. And romance lovers. And sci-fi and horror lovers. And if you want to get published, there are programs to help with that as well.

Tickets are available for mystery writer Walter Mosely, the Festival's most requested author. "We've been trying to get him for years," says Damon. Admittance to his March 30 fundraiser at the Paramount ranges from $38 to $125 for the deluxe reception and a copy of Blonde Faith. Proceeds go to the Virginia Center for the Book. 

M*A*S*H guy Mike Farrell will be at the Paramount March 29 for a more modest $10.

Most Book Fest events are free, but more and more the headliners are likely to require tickets. Even free evening events at Culbreth require a ticket picked up one hour in advance, but at least the new 400-space parking garage there is now open.

With so many intriguing possibilities to take in over the five-day event– and that doesn't include a pre-Festival March 25 event with legendary newsman Roger Mudd– the Hook opens its book bag and lends its humble expertise to the Tantric Book Fest.

Local mystery writer Andy Straka's fourth book explores whether DNA can really exonerate.
Roger Mudd gives the first reading of his new book in Charlottesville.
The New Yorker picked Nathan Englander as one of "20 writers for the 21st century." .
Jill A. Davis used to write for Letterman before turning to novels.
Greg Mortensen's approach to peace in the builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where education for women is not a given.
Jennifer Ackerman's Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream cycles through 24 hours of the human body.

Local lawyer Steve White writes sci-fi.
A.J. Jacobs looked like a prophet during his Year of Living Biblically.
One of Mike Farrell's best friends in Virginia is in prison and was on Death Row.
Festival audiences have clamored for Walter Mosley for years.


Tuesday, March 25


The Place to Be: An Evening with Roger Mudd

Did we say the 80-year-old broadcaster is a legend? He has a book soon out called The Place to Be: Washington, CBS and the Glory Days of Television News. He was at all those, as well as NBC's anchor desk and Meet the Press, and most recently with the History Channel. Learn the dirt on Walter Cronkite. 7pm Senior Center.


Wednesday, March 26


Business Breakfast: A Perfect Mess

Mudd steps in for no-show author of A Perfect Mess:The Hidden Benefits of Disorder–How Crammed Closets Cluttered Offices and On-the-Fly Planning make the World a Better Place, Eric Abrahamson. 7:30am, Omni Ballroom, tickets $25.


Opening Ceremony

At last, John Grisham's picks for winners of the Hook short story contest will be unveiled– with a shocking twist. Charles Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, kicks off the statewide Big Read of To Kill a Mockingbird. noon, Jefferson-Madison Central Library.


Digging Coal and Moving Mountains

Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, who wrote Coal River about mountaintop mining in Appalachia, is joined by former U.S. News & World Report senior editor Penny Loeb, author of Moving Mountains: How One Woman and her Community Won Justice from Big Coal, and coal-mining song-meister Paul Kuczko, director of the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth in Big Stone Gap. Ask them if strip mining is a good idea. 2pm, Gravity Lounge.


Opening the Vein: Pouring Life into Writing

We always love to hear our neighbors spill their guts, and the four authors here should provide plenty to talk about: Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren is an award-winning children's book author and Delegate Rob Bell's legislative aide; Deborah Prum, who won the Hook short story contest in 2003, has written books and has a son who's a professional paintball player; former Charlottesville prosecutor Fran Cannon Slayton has a children's book, How To Stop a Moving Train, coming out next year; and crime writer Andy Straka's fourth book, Record of Wrongs, is just out. 4pm, Jefferson-Madison Central Library.


The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

We wish this were part of the Crime Wave series, but unfortunately the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala in 1998, two days after he released a report blaming the military for most of that country's 200,000 civilian deaths during more than 30 years of civil war, is real. Novelist Francisco Goldman wrote the nonfiction account of the assassination. 6pm, Barnes & Noble.


Wayward Sons: Fiction with Nathan Englander and Colm Tóibin

Raised in an Orthodox Jewish community, Englander got in a little trouble with his first book, a collection of short stories called For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. Irish-born/gay/expat Tóibin's Mothers and Sons short stories were released last year. 8pm, Culbreth Theatre.


Thursday, March 27


Virginia Stories: Reconstructing the Past

Logan Ward is the guy who moved to the year 1900 over in Swoope with his wife and young son, wrote a book called See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America, and was subject of the Hook's August 9, 2007, cover story. History prof Scott Casper comes in from the University of Nevada to talk about his book, Sarah Johnson's Mount Vernon, the story of the slaves who worked at George Washington's estate after he died. Virginian Pilot reporter Earl Swift has canoed the entire length of the James River. His most recent book, The Tangierman's Lament: and Other Tales of Virginia  includes an in-depth story about Hurricane Camille and other vignettes from across the Commonwealth. 10am, Jefferson Madison Central Library.


Reading Group Choices

Forget Jan Karon and the sold-out Festival luncheon. The $8 box lunch at Gravity Lounge with Emmy-nominated former Late Night with David Letterman writer Jill A. Davis (Ask Again Later, Girls Poker Night) and a former editor for Spy and Time magazines and an Orange County neighbor, James Collins (Beginner's Greek), sounds like the hot lunch ticket to us. Noon, Gravity Lounge (Ordering the $8 box lunch in advance at 977-5590 is strongly recommended).


Across Time and Space: Fiction Capturing Personal and Public History

Okay, we loved Arthur Phillips' Prague and hear that The Egyptologist is wonderful, so that's the main reason we're picking this. Otherwise, anxiety about the economy would send us to "Of Vice and Men: Crime, Money and Panic in America" over in the City Council Chambers. Phillips appears with South African-born Anne Landsman and Jamestown trilogy author George Robert Minkoff. 2pm, UVA Bookstore


Three Cups of Tea with Greg Mortensen

Mortensen is co-founder of the Central Asia Institute, which has built more than 61 schools in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and provides education for girls, in the belief that's the best way to instigate change. His book is Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time. 6pm, Culbreth Theatre.


Fiction Favorites

Get your free tickets one hour early for this headliner with Rocket Boys author Homer Hickam, Big Stone Gap series writer Adriana Trigiani, and aforementioned Letterman writer Jill A. Davis. 8pm, Culbreth Theatre.


Friday, March 28


Science Writing: Life Cycles

Local National Geographic contributor Jennifer Ackerman's Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream covers the 24-hour cycle of the body; Michael Sims' Adam's Navel takes a head-to-toe approach to the body, and Susan Freinkel chronicles an extinct classic in American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree. 10am, City Council Chambers.


Old Chestnuts: American Culture in Conflict

Having just recommended a Freinkel event, it's tempting to forego this for the "VQR Poetry Series: Debut Reading" because it will be the first time a Book Fest organizer– poet Kevin McFadden– is a participant on a panel. But three things keep us with "Old Chestnuts": Jeff Wiltse's social history of swimming pools, David Hadju on comic books, and Winchester-born Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting with Jesus, who runs the American Expatriate Cocktail Research Station in Belize, Central America. You know the stories here will be rich. noon, City Council Chambers.


How the Media Shapes Life as We Know It

Is this another "blame the media" discussion? Two University of Mary Washington profs– Stephen Farnsworth, author of The Nightly News Nightmare: Network Television's Coverage of US Presidential Elections, 1988-2004, and Mary Beth Mathews, who wrote Rethinking Zion: How the Print Media Placed Fundamentalism in the South– join the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's managing editor for enterprise, Hank Klibanoff, and John E. Semonche, author of Censoring Sex: A Historical Journey Through American Media. 2pm, City Council Chambers.


A View from the Bench

Charlottesville resident J. Harvie Wilkinson, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, has been floated as a Supreme Court nominee, and he stands up for the Constitution, as he did in a 2006 Washington Post article decrying efforts to "Constitutionalize" gay marriage. 4pm, UVA Law School Caplin Auditorium. 


Alternate Universes: Science Fiction and Fantasy

At a sci-fi convention, these guys would be mobbed. David B. Coe is an award-winning fantasy writer who has published the first in a new trilogy, Blood of the Southlands. Prolific L.E. Modesitt Jr. has written more than 50 science fiction and fantasy novels, and Charlottesvillian Steve White works for LexisNexis by day while co-writing the "Star Fire" series by night. 6pm, Jefferson-Madison Central Library.


Being a Black Man

Washington Post associate editor Kevin Merida wrote the book Being a Black Man (and is married to Post columnist Donna Britt). He's joined by another WaPo editor, Joe Davidson, and Adam Bradley, author of Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop and co-editor of The Collected Manuscripts of Ralph Ellison's Unpublished Second Novel. Former UVA dean of African-American Affairs Rick Turner moderates. 8pm, City Council Chambers.


Saturday, March 29


Annual Bookfair

The Omni atrium will be humming with fans and writers of mystery, romance, and those who want to get published. See if you can tell who's who. 9am, Omni.


Re-Viewing the American Revolution and Constitution

University of Richmond history professor Woody Holton was a 2007 National Book Award finalist with Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. He's joined by his personal pick for National Book Award finalist, Terry Bouton, author of Taming Democracy: "The People," the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution. 10am, City Council Chambers.


Graphics at Gravity: Comics and Novels

We're torn. Larry Sabato is discussing his newest book, A More Perfect Constitution, over at City Council Chambers, but maybe we need to take a little break from the Constitution to check out the graphic novel world. Peter David has written 70 novels and over 1,000 comics and graphic novels. Illustrator Colleen Doran lists Disney, DC, and Marvel among her many, many credits. Order a box lunch. Noon, Gravity Lounge.


Nice Jewish Boys Gone Wild

A.J. Jacobs is the guy you want to talk to at a cocktail party. The Esquire senior editor wrote The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, and read all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britanica for his book, The Know-It-All. With Marc Estrin (The Education of Arnold Hitler), Adam Mansbach (Angry Black White Boy), and Peter Charles Melman, whose 90-year-old grandmother called his debut book, Landsman, "the horniest book I ever read." 2pm, Village School.


One Bad Book: The Disturbing Legacy of Mongrel Virginians

"This is the first book we dislike," says Nancy Damon about the 1920s book on Monacan Indians in Amherst County, just up the road from Lynchburg, where the Commonwealth was forcibly sterilizing the so-called mentally unfit. Tribal Councilor Sharon Bryant, who has filmed a documentary, Reclaiming Our Heritage: The Monacan Indian Nation of Virginia, Monacan nation assistant chief Diane Johns Shields, and Karenne Wood, director of the Virginia Indian Heritage Program, discuss the disturbing legacy. 4pm, City Council Chambers


Authors' Reception

Clink glasses and nibble hors d'oeuvres at Carr's Hill with the authors you've seen. Hosted by the Holtons: former Governor Linwood, former first lady Jinks, and son Woody. Last year was a sell-out, so we recommend buying the $25 tickets in advance. Oops, never mind. At press time the reception hit capacity. StubHub, anyone? 6 to 7:30pm Carr's Hill


Just Call Me Mike: An Evening with Mike Farrell

The former B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H is a well-established human rights activist who has been to Virginia many times to oppose the death penalty. Tickets are $10. 8pm, Paramount.


Sunday, March 30


20th Century Virginia History: Living It, Writing It

Former Governor Holton was a rarity during his 1970-74 term as a liberal Republican, and that's even rarer now. He's written his take on the death throes of segregation in Virginia during his term as the first Republican governor since Reconstruction in Opportunity Time. He discusses it with Hampden-Sydney professor emeritus Ron Heinemann, who's on the board of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the organization that brings you the Book Festival. 1:30pm, City Council Chambers.


Walter Mosley: A Literary Life

By popular demand, Easy Rawlins' creator comes to Charlottesville. Don't wait to get tickets that range from $38 to $125. 4pm Paramount.


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