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TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL PROVIDES SPOOKS, MAGIC

By by kathleen duncan/kduncan@vicad.com
Oct. 31, 2012 at 5:31 a.m.

Bookfesters fill the book tents.

We were in a cemetery long after sunset, shivering, waiting for him to arrive. He appeared out of the darkness, his fedora angled jauntily, casting long shadows across his face as he glided noiselessly forward into the yellow lamplight. He stood there and looked at all of us. Sitting, standing, waiting. And then, into the silence, he began to read.

I stood among the living and the dead for the Texas Book Festival's Lit Crawl in Austin, listening to Mark Z. Danielewski read aloud from his "House of Leaves," one of the spookiest and most intricately designed books I've ever read.

It is always a rewarding experience to hear one of your favorite authors read their book, but to hear one of the scariest tales read aloud by the writer himself in a cemetery at night? Nothing could be more perfect.

Of course, the weekend was filled with amazing moments for readers of all types, whether it was in the house chamber of the capitol or under the book-filled tents on the streets.

David Levithan spoke to a packed room Sunday about writing processes with fellow authors Michelle Hodkin and Hilary Weisman Graham. Levithan told us, jokingly, "Eight months on the first couple chapters, then oh shit I have a deadline... four months on the rest of the book."

Hodkin said she loves Twitter, but it distracts her from her work sometimes. "There are cool things on the Internet. It's shiny." she said.

Though Junot Diaz was unable to make it, to the dissapointment of many bookfesters (drat you Superstorm Sandy!), the weekend was still filled with unforgettable meetings of readers and the authors they admire.

Lines went down the block for book signings, lectures filled until it was standing room only and books flew off the tables until you began to hear, "We sold out," if you weren't quick enough.

The highlight for many seemed to be the session with Tim O'Brien after he accepted the Texas Writer Award Saturday. He was incredibly moving as he spoke about moral choice, humanity, war and the magic of storytelling itself. "Magic spills over into writing. When you think of Moby Dick, Ahab, it's illusion. It's built sentence by sentence, word by word." he said. And looking around at the packed room of awe-struck readers, I couldn't have said it better myself. It was pure magic.

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