Los Angeles Times Book Festival Sunday

I walk around the UCLA campus feeling not quite in control, that at any minute I might take my pen and stab someone.

I’m a dangerous man.

My first panel is at 10:30 am — "Laugh Track — moderator Amy WallenSarah Dunn, Merrill Markoe, Bill Scheft and Maria Semple."

All the panelists are TV writers who’ve written funny novels. Merrill and Bill are stand-up quality funny while Sarah and Maria are more awkward and windy.

Noon: Going Long: The Book as Journalism. Moderator Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress, some unknown writer) is infuriating. She says long pronounced "umms" every few words and is as awkward as a Protestant minister in an Orthodox shul.

The panelists are John Powers, Dan Baum, Barry Siegel and Sharon Waxman.

Powers wrote a book about Bush Culture in 2004. "The money was in hating Bush." His book featured a cover with a picture of Bush looking constipated. In exchange for catering to that market, Powers got good money.

The book festival seems slimmed down from previous years and I hear much fear that it may not come back next year.

Baum quotes an old Texas journalist who often said: "Journalism is like a whore’s life without the gaiety."

Siegel: "Publishers want an enduring story but they promote your book to talkshows as the most topical thing."

Woman in the audience: "Will books save investigative journalism?"

Waxman says most investigative journalism these days is done in documentaries. She sees many of them at Sundance and wonders why a newspaper hadn’t done the story.

Baum says he does a lot of fictionalizing in his non-fiction books. "In all my books, I’m making up stuff, but I never get dinged for it."

He says non-fiction books tend to get reviewed by non-fiction writers who uniformly want to fictionalize their non-fiction books and watch jealously how much fictionalizing other non-fiction writers get away with and if they feel like it is too much, they get jealous and ding their peers for fictionalizing.

Siegel and Waxman are appalled and from the sound of things disagree strongly with any fictionalizing in non-fiction.

2 pm. A riveting panel discussion on the "Underbelly of California." It is broadcast by CSPAN. Miles Corwin moderates a discussion between Larry Harnisch, Richard Rayner and David Ward.

3 pm. The most entertaining panel discussion of the day: "All the Wrong Places." Thomas Curwen moderates the discussion between Will Chaffey, Cash Peters, and Evan Wright.

Wright says his journalism career began at Hustler magazine where he was assigned to review porn movies. The magazine used a phallus as a guide and the best score you could get was "fully erect."

He says on his third day on the job, a bloke named "Pussyman" called him up and said he directed the Pussyman line of films and he wanted to know what he had to do to get a fully erect from Evan.

At this point, a mother with her three young children, left the room.

I’m a bad man because I started laughing hysterically at this and had to be shushed by my friend.

Evan has just published his second book — a collection of essays called Hella Nation.

At every panel discussion, an official from the festival makes an announcement that private taping is not allowed. Why bother? If you want to do it, nobody can catch you.

When I get home, I check out Larry Harnisch’s web site, where I find this warning: "This Web site represents original work by me, Larry Harnisch. By accessing this Web site, you agree to not modify, copy, reproduce, republish, mirror, upload, post, transmit or distribute in any way any material from this site, including text, graphics, code and/or software. You may only download material from this site for your personal, noncommercial use, provided that you keep all copyright and other proprietary notices intact. You may not, directly or indirectly, publish, broadcast or distribute any information on the site in any medium. You may not store all or any portion of the site in any permanent form, whether archival files, computer-readable files or any other medium."

Every person who visits Larry’s site automatically downloads it into his cache.

I email Larry: "Why do you have such a lame opening page with a long stern warning? Do you think it does you the least good? Do you think people are the slightest less likely to copy its contents because of the warning? Even if your entire contents were reproduced somewhere else, Google would only penalize the copiers. It would do you no harm. Haven’t you heard of Google’s duplicate content rule?"

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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