Monday, May 19, 2014

SC Book Festival


Books of every sort showed up for the Festival Saturday and Sunday. I love old books, and antiquarian booths were packed with them. Major chains offered the bestsellers. Independent publishers and authors hawked their books.

Tables groaned under the weight of books representing a range of creativity. Creativity is a defining factor in whether writing is an art or a craft, but we’ll get to that some other time. I will only say some books are created by craftsmen and others by artists—as is true of paintings or music. Anyway, this is not about the difference between craft and art.

I’m not going to say the books ranged from good to bad. Too many people say there are no bad books, just bad readers. When we see novels we consider of dubious merit on best seller lists, we writers console ourselves by assuming that other readers are not as good as we are, i.e., they don’t have our discriminating taste. Of course, we’re discriminating or we wouldn’t be writing. But taste is the operative word. I’m trying to figure out what that is.

At the Festival, I spent most of my time at the South Carolina Writers Workshop booth talking to prospective writers or closet writers. And visiting with other members of the organization. You’d expect writers to look creative, I mean wear unusual clothes or style their hair different, grow a beard. Most of us look like everybody else. Somebody, can’t remember who, said that writers live ordinary lives so their writing can be extraordinary.


I only saw a fraction of the presentations, but a highlight for me was one by Ron Rash and Lee Smith, two people you can’t help but like. I bought a copy of Ron’s novel, Serena, for it’s being made into a movie. Both Ron and Lee are professional no-bullshit writers who speak to their audience without a hint of condescension. Their anecdotes had the audience laughing, and the room was packed, people standing.

The Book Festival is a place were writers rub shoulders with each other and with readers. There isn’t another event like it in the state. It’s sponsored by The Humanities Council with donations from local businesses and individuals. I hope the Council gets the thanks and appreciation it deserves.

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