Sunday, October 13, 2013

Southern Festival of Books

  I spent a couple of days at the Southern Festival of Books this weekend.  I'd always wanted to go but had never made time for it or really knew what all it offered.  Now that I know how it works, I'm afraid that I will be there every year buying too many books, as usual. 

Yesterday, I heard only one author speak, Rick Bragg.  He was such an entertaining feller, as my Dad would have said.  He writes a monthly essay which can be found in the back of Southern Living magazine.  It is usually an observation of some aspect of a life lived while growing up in the south.  He is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist for the NY Times and the author of six books, all non fiction.  His memoir, All Over but the Shoutin'  is the story of his mother's sacrifice to raise three boys alone after their abusive, alcoholic husband and father  abandoned them. 

I got there a little early and saw him as I was heading in to listen to him speak in a fair sized auditorium.  He spoke to me and looked me in the eye as if maybe I was someone that he knew and couldn't remember. 

Afterwards he signed books.  I got in a very long line and waited while he took time to listen to each person who came up with a book to be signed, who shared a bit of themselves with him, telling him why his book meant so much to each of them.  Many asked for writing advice and most wanted their picture made with him.  When I got up there I wasn't sure what to say but I said, "my grandfather was an alcoholic and it deeply affected my dad and my son suffers with drug and alcohol addiction...."  "Well, then you know these people,"he said while tapping his finger on the pages of his book.  "Yes, I do."  I said. 

And, I thought that maybe I know him too.  And, it occurred to me that he looked me in the eye, not because I was someone that he thought he knew, but that when you know the faces of those in the margins, you make it a point to make sure that you really look at them and others.  When you've loved a person that society discounts, whether you've been angry with them or not, whether they've made their amends or not, you still realize that they are a person. You are careful to look at others knowing that they have a story too.

Maybe I read too much into it.  Maybe not.  His book is really an interesting story.  It is a picture of addiction and poverty which often walk hand in hand. It is an account of a Mama feeling guilty for the way things turned out....  a portrait of the south in all of it's good and bad parts.  It did sound familiar.

Today is one of the last days in the eighties, at least this week.  It seems like summer never ends and then winter just hits.  I did buy books as Christmas gifts.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm learning to enjoy myself....Praying today for all of our loved ones. 


Annette said...

Awwww I love this. You went and did something that you wanted to do, something you enjoy, just for you. Thats a big day. I am so happy that you connected with Rick Bragg. I agree. It is something special when we see and feel that we have been seen.

Terri said...

I love Rick Bragg and most other southern writers. Glad that you got to see him.