• Texas Book Festival: Sunday

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    I feel like I must lead Sunday’s wrap-up with the most random sentence I’ve ever heard.

    During a panel entitled “Big Stories, Small Towns,” Antonya Nelson told the audience that she only writes when she has something to say, and that she will sometimes go for months without writing a word. Another panelist asked her what she does when she’s not writing, and Nelson, after a spiel about cooking, said, “My husband and I own a ghost town, and we’re renovating the post office there.”

    What? What?!

    Out of all the possible answers to that question, “My husband and I own a ghost town” would not have made my list of the most-likely million. “My husband and I own a ghost town.” I just can’t stop writing it.

    “My husband and I own a ghost town, and we’re renovating the post office there.”

    Dear readers, what do you do when you’re not writing? Do you think you have an answer more bizarre than Nelson’s? If so, send it to me (david@writebynight.net). I’d love to hear about it.

    This “Big Stories” panel was lots of fun. Rick Bass, author the recent novel Nashville Chrome, is a real cut-up, and Jake Silverstein and Philipp Meyer provided some youthful insights. And Antonya Nelson and Robert Boswell own a ghost town, and they are currently renovating the post office.

    (Where do you buy a ghost town? Is there a “Ghost Town” listing in the Real Estate section of the Boswell/Nelson local newspaper? “FOR SALE: Ghost town. Don’t be fooled by the others — this ghost town is guaranteed to be in really bad shape.”)

    (And what’s the point of renovation? Doesn’t that go against the purpose of a ghost town? “Say, let’s go see that new ghost town. It’s totally renovated. It looks just like a normal, fully-functional town.” Is this to be a working post office? Are they hiring? I’m so confused and intrigued.)


    The first event I went to on Sunday was a reading from and discussion of Jim Hynes’s novel Next. And by the way, it’s an excellent book. I read it shortly before we moved to Austin and could not put it down. In person, Hynes is very witty and self-effacing, and he had the crowd in stitches several times.

    After that, Justine and I took in the “Big Stories” panel, which we both enjoyed. (Also, we both made audible noises when Nelson mentioned her ghost town. For some reason, we were the only ones). I came away from that panel wanting to read Bass’s new novel and Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did.

    Next up was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the Senate Chamber. If you’ve not read her work before, I highly recommend it. Her story collection is titled The Thing Around Your Neck, and her novels are Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. A few weeks ago we linked to a speech she gave on TED, and when the moderator mentioned it at the discussion, the audience burst into applause. I guess this TED thing is popular.

    I wanted to talk more here about the writers and their books, and about the sights and sounds of the Texas Book Festival, but I just can’t get past this ghost town thing. Being fairly familiar with Nelson and Boswell, I’d have to say that they’re the only literary couple I can think of who would even consider owning a ghost town. They have houses all over the Southwest (they also both teach creative writing in the University of Houston’s MFA program), and last year I reviewed a book Boswell wrote about a treasure hunt in New Mexico. It shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does.

    I guess we just weren’t expecting to hear about renovations to a ghost town during a literary discussion.

    Always keep your ears open, folks.

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