Paging all book lovers!

Browse through the listings for the soon-to-happen Eighth Annual Virginia Festival of the Book, and your head will spin. Too much in too short a time! I don’t want to choose! I want it all!

So, as many do before the ghastly limits of reality descend, I have taken the liberty to choose all the Book Festival events I would attend had I world enough and time.

First, a general note about the festival. This is the second festival managed by Nancy Damon and Kevin McFadden, and clearly they’re in the groove now. Great mix of local authors and interesting people from far away. Even more local agency sponsorship of events, thus more panels on civic issues, from faith in government and integrity in America to an inside look at Robert’s Rules of Order. A few big names, like Marie Arana and Michael Pollan. Lots of fascinating lesser-knowns. Topics and slants from all directions.

If the list below whets your appetite for more, check out the full festival program on the website:



Going for Broke

6–7:30pm, New Dominion Bookshop

Barbara Ehrenreich took three years of her life to research Nickel and Dimed. She held minimum-wage jobs-— hotel maid, housecleaner, waitress, Wal-Mart clerk— and faced the reality of raising a family that way. Novelist Ben Cheever, dumped by his publisher, slid into the working class, too. He worked as a department store Santa, an auto salesman, a security guard, then notched back up into the intelligentsia to write Selling Ben Cheever. Both authors have economic realities to report.


THURSDAY, March 21

Story of My Cookbook and How to Make My Favorite Recipe

10:30am–Noon, The Seasonal Cook

Three Virginia authors talk first, cook later, in this matched pair of events. Jannequin Bennett, executive chef at TJ’s in Richmond’s Jefferson Hotel, has just published Very Vegetarian. Angela Mulloy, owner of the Willow Grove Inn in Orange, learned Southern cooking from the legendary Edna Lewis and researched recipes from the great Southern hostesses of the past for her Plantation Feasts and Festivities. UVA graduate student Tara Seefeldt coauthored The Wicca Cookbook, a historically accurate book of medieval recipes.


Cutting-edge Books for Gardeners

Noon, PVCC

Plant, cut, arrange, and make beautiful bouquets with advice from Suzanne McIntire, author of American Cutting Garden, and Carol Church of Southern States.


Discover your Genius

6:30pm, Darden Center Auditorium

Michael Gelb catches business executives’ attention with his version of how to get ahead: study the great minds of history and think like them. His book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, proposes seven da Vincian principles, from curiositá (relentless learning) to connessione (awareness of the interconnectedness of things, which Gelb modernizes into “system thinking”).


FRIDAY, March 22

More Lies Ahead

Noon, McIntire Room, Central Library

When will we get a president— a politician-— a husband-— we can believe? Three authors talk about the reputation of integrity and truth today. Charles Lewis wrote The Cheating of America to show how the richest among us figure ways to pay the fewest taxes. Bill Press, cohost of CNN’s Crossfire, wrote Spin This! to show how close political marketing plans come to lies. Jeremy Campbell wrote about falsehood from a different angle in The Liar’s Tale, suggesting lies are part of nature and necessary for survival. Should be quite a tennis match of ideas.


Jefferson’s Pillow

Noon, UVA Rotunda

In his new book, civil rights leader Roger Wilkins argues that “We divide up our past and use simplistic bits selectively in order to fuel the argument of the moment ”-— particularly in the realm of race relations. He urges a fuller sense of history and more active involvement in the task of being an American.


Body Work

Noon, ACAC

Beauty’s only skin-deep, but muscle tone matters. Three authors talk body image. In Fat Like Us, Jean Renfro Anspaugh reports on the life and struggles of dozens of dieters making the pilgrimage to North Carolina’s Rice Diet center. In Stick Figure, Lori Gottlieb recalls her own preteen years of dieting and starvation, leading to hospitalization when she dropped to 80 pounds. In The Legacy of Narcissus, M.D. Jeffrey Scott Isenberg examines moral dilemmas facing aesthetic plastic surgeons. They’ll compare wounds.


Is Sex Really Necessary?

2pm, UVA Bookstore

Four authors whose novels get steamy-— including one who went on to write a how-to book on writing sex scenes-— talk over the role, style, and effect of sex in books published today.


John Steinbeck: A Centennial Celebration

4pm, Alderman Library’s McGregor Room

Steinbeck scholar David Wyatt (whom Charlottesville can claim, despite his Johns Hopkins faculty position, since he and wife Ann Porotti own L’Avventura) will join Michael Plunkett, head of UVA’s spectacular Special Collections, and use rare manuscripts, letters, and first editions to talk about the great John Steinbeck. Nothing beats touching something that the great author touched himself.


Dancing with Destiny

4pm, Les Yeux du Monde

The mystique of Isadora Duncan will not fade. Considered the mother of modern dance, she lived a rakish life, obsessed by her art, and died in a way that suited her lifestyle. Biographer Peter Kurth will talk about her life and legacy and will also show a clip of Isadora Duncan dancing.


Natural History

8pm, UVA Culbreth Theater

Two of the great science writers in this era of nonfiction’s preeminence will read from their work. Michael Pollan’s latest, The Botany of Desire, explores four plants as symbols of human desire: the apple for sweetness, the tulip for beauty, marijuana for intoxication, and the potato for control of the natural world. Australian scientist Tim Flannery’s monumental work, The Eternal Frontier, paints a broad-brush history of the North American continent, beginning 65 million years ago and ending a thousand years hence.


Poet of the Barrio

8pm, Wilson Hall, UVA

Born in Albuquerque in 1952, part Chicano, part Native American, by his teens Jimmy Santiago Baca had seen it all. “I was becoming what society told me I was,” he writes, “prone to drugs and alcohol, unable to control my own life . . . a senseless beast of labor. I drugged my pain and drowned my self-hatred in drink, seeking oblivion. I had no future, no plans, no destiny, no regard for my life; I was free falling into bottomless despair.” Imprisoned at 21, he emerged five years later, redeemed by learning to read and write. Now a published author nearly a dozen times over, he spends as much time reading in schools and community centers as he does promoting his work. He has stories to tell, poems to recite, and passions to shout about.


SATURDAY, March 23

Publishing and the Internet: VABook! Publishers’ Day 2002

8am–5pm, Newcomb Hall, UVA

Pay $35, and you can attend any of the panels offered on the issues of e-publishing, website presence, and the impact of the Internet on the lives of authors. If all this interests you, don’t miss the Plenary Session, featuring Jason Epstein and described below.


Crime wave at VABook!

8:30am–6pm, Albemarle County Office Building

Mystery authors, mystery fans, and everyone in between, unite! This year’s book fest has collected the growing number of mystery panels and located them in one building on one day. Key visitors are Anne Perry, English author of Victorian mysteries, most recently Southampton Row; Elizabeth Peters, who also writes under the names Barbara Michaels and Barbara Mertz, whose mysteries reliably feature a strong-headed female lead; and Jeffrey Deaver, the author of 18 mysterious hits, including The Bone Collector. Free admission to all Crime Wave events except the luncheon featuring Elizabeth Peters.


Postcards from the ePublishing Edge

9am, Newcomb Hall Ballroom

Here’s a chance to hear Jason Epstein in person, the man who made publishing world waves with his 2000 article, “The Rattle of Pebbles,” which shone an unflinching light on the woeful effects of megalopublishing economics on literature. Then he went and wrote a whole book about it: Book Business. He sees digital publishing as an author’s best future, and he’ll talk about it here.


Can I Write This?

10am, City Council Chambers

Charlottesville’s Robert O’Neil, of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, has invited some likeminded people to talk about censorship in publishing and the public arena. In her book Not in Front of the Children, lawyer Marjorie Heins, founder of the ACLU Arts Censorship Project, argues that censorship on behalf of children is dangerous politics disguised. In his book Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Bruce W. Sanford warns that public skepticism about the media may diminish the advantages of a free press. O’Neil will keep the conversation rolling.


Cooking Up Stories

2pm, City Council Chambers

Ever since Calvin Trillin and Like Water for Chocolate, prose authors have allowed themselves to glory in food. Albemarle magazine book critic Bella Stander stirs up that particular literary pot by bringing together two food-fixated novelists (Thomas Fox Averill, Secrets of the Tsil Café, a world seen through chili pepper-colored glasses; and Judith Ryan Hendricks, Bread Alone, in which bread serves as a metaphor for love, serenity, contentment) and two menu-conscious memoirists (Colette Rossant, Memories of a Lost Egypt, where flavor and recipes add joy to painful childhood memories; and Sara Mansfield Taber, Bread of Three Rivers, traveling France in search of the perfect loaf).


The Darker Face of the Earth

4pm, Live Arts

A staged reading of Rita Dove’s verse-play— a 1994 creation that takes the ancient Greek story of Oedipus and places it in a 19th-century setting. After seeing it on stage, critics remarked especially upon the poetry, calling it “nothing short of stunning.” Teresa Dowell-Vest, author of last year’s Live Arts production Vinegar Hill, directs this performance.


Actor to Activist

4pm, Culbreth Theater

Readers with hair the far side of gray will think Gunsmoke when they hear the name Dennis Weaver. But in these past four decades, he’s been doing a bit more than limping and toting guns. He runs the Institute for Ecolonomics, a weird word he has invented to signify “an academic discipline aimed at harnessing the symbiotic power inherent to the ecology–economics relationship,” as phrased on the institute’s website. He has built a model home, which he calls an Earthship, displaying the ecolonomic principles he holds dear. And now he has published a memoir, All the World’s a Stage, that is bound to have as much sustainability as Sunset Avenue in it.


A Journey of Unexpected Joy

4pm, Region Ten, Meadowcreek Center

Region Ten’s Mental Retardation Services division has invited three authors-— two parents, one doctor-— to talk about raising disabled children, the ones most of us politely ignore. Lori Hickman, author of Living in My Skin, interviewed dozens of parents whose children have special needs. William H. Woodwell Jr., author of Coming to Term, recounted the trauma of the death of one of his twin daughters, born months too early. After decades of medical experience, Mark Batshaw, GW professor of pediatrics, wrote a helpful guidebook, When Your Child Has a Disability.


SUNDAY, March 24

The Quantum and the Lotus

1:30pm, Student Book Store

Trinh Xuan Thuan, Vietnamese by birth and an astrophysicist by training, held conversations with Matthieu Ricard, a biologist by training and a Buddhist by choice. The two were curious to find the meeting places between modern science and Buddhist philosophy. The Quantum and the Lotus records those conversations. Thuan will talk with UVA anthropologist Roy Wagner about the discoveries that emerged out of that dialogue.