Monday, April 26, 2010

The L.A. Times Festival of Books and the search for info on Great Great Grandma and Mark Twain

Nancy and I made our annual trip (although missed last year) to the festival. We always have a great time... hear and see some of our favorite authors, meet fascinating people, visit our favorite city, eat great food, etc.

This time we stayed with Nancy's daughter Megan. She's subletting an apt. in L.A. for a few months. Coincidentally the apt. is just down the street from the apt. we first lived in more than 40 years ago. I was already living in L.A. (recently divorced) and Nancy and her friend had just graduated from high school and moved in with me.  It's in a great area called Beachwood Canyon at the foot of the Hollywood sign. The area used to be called Hollywoodland when it was first developed. It's still a wonderful cozy area, feeling far removed from the big city. You can just barely see the Hollywood sign in this photo. It's much more visible in person.

At the book festival we wanted to see Laura Skandera Trombley who has a new book called "Mark Twain's Other Woman". Our Great Great Grandmother was supposed to have been his girlfriend when they were teenagers. At least that's what our family have always said. The only proof we have is the census records showing them living next door to each other.  I thought this author might have some info.  But no such luck. She did tell me where to get more information, though. There's an expert on his life at U.C. Berkeley who has a huge archive.  I'm going to contact him next.
However she was a wonderful speaker and she was on an interesting panel with other biographers.
We also saw The great Herman Wouk, author of 'The Caine Mutiny", "War and Remembrance" and many others. He's about 94 years old, still quite spry and very funny. He mentioned that he wasn't proud of having written "Marjorie Morningstar". That was good to hear, although I remember loving it when I was young.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous the next person we saw was the wonderfully silly Sarah Silverman who has a new book called " The Bedwetter,  Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee" She, of course, was hilarious. And the book was an autobiography!!
Everybody loved her.  (She's the one in the purple jacket)  She looks like she's about 18 years old and she's 39.

We also saw Sebastian Junger, who wrote "The Perfect Storm". His new book is called "War". It's about Afghanistan and it sounds very good. He was there as a journalist but was in the very midst of the fighting.  There was a man in the audience, with his wife and son, who he introduced as one of the soldiers he was embedded with. He spoke very movingly about the soldiers he was with and about this man.  He was here on leave and will be going back next week. As people were leaving after it was over several of them stopped to shake his hand. It brought tears to my eyes.

One of my favorite writers is Lisa See. She wrote "On Gold Mountain", "Shanghai Girls", "Sunflower and The Secret Fan", and "Peony in Love".  She and her mother, Carolyn See shared the stage. Carolyn is also a wonderful writer. Some of her books are "The Handyman","Rhine Maidens", Dreaming, and Good Times in America".  I once knew her a very long time ago.  She was a friend of a friend.  It's kind of rare for a mother and daughter to both be writers...and to both be good.  They were very entertaining and very funny.


Martin H. said...

Sounds as though you had a wonderful time. And the quest for solving the Mark Twain mystery goes on. Good luck with your new contact.

Jewelry Bling Hiphop Rings Engagement Ring said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
McHargue said...

Sounds like a great excursion. I hope you'll be able to track something down with Twain and your GGGM.
Would you believe my husband lived in Beachwood canyon while he was going to USC and working at the studios to keep the wolf from the door?

You chose a wide range of speakers to see - all of whom sound interesting. I'm sure the authors all must be excellent presenters in order to be on that roster.

Nancy and Barbara said...

I sure didn't remove a comment. I wonder what happened and who's the "blog administrator"?

Nancy and Barbara said...

Helen, When you get back from your trip we'll have to meet your husband and reminisce about Beachwood Canyon.


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