Literary Events Abound Sept. 28-30

September is a good month to watch the leaves change, experience the cool down in temperatures, and enjoy the local and not-so-local authors attending the book festivals in the Washington, D.C., area. While most know about The National Book Festival, Virginia’s Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University started this week on Sept. 26 and continues through this weekend. Among the authors expected are Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Rita Dove, Alice Walker, Katherine Boo, Karen Russell, and Amy Waldman. Over six days, readers and writers have the chance to meet 150 authors.

Alma Katsu, whose books (The Taker series) have been reviewed here, will be participating on a literary and genre fiction panel hosted by the National Book Festival that also features novelists Julianna Baggott and Louis Bayard as well as Salon.com founder and critic Laura Miller on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. In addition to literature, Fall for the Book Festival also offers panels on the election and how to tap political independents and navigate the political landscape as well as a higher education panel to look at the challenges ahead for universities.

Today’s events will be headlined by Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline and The Graveyard Book, and at 7:30 p.m. he will receive the 2012 Mason Award for “extraordinary contributions in bringing literature to a wide reading public.” From memoirists to novelists and short story writers, today’s events offer a great deal for readers to check out, including a screening of The Color Purple at the Johnson Center Cinema and poet Cathy Park Hong.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, readers and families can attend the regional library book sale, a children’s book panel, a superheroes panel, a poetry reading, as well as the opportunity to visit with Laura Lippman, learn about political thrillers, and much more. On the final day of the festival, attendees can hear from Congressman Tim Ryan, check out the George Mason Alumni Reading, and check out writing from student writers at the Falling for the Story event. Check out the full schedule.

In addition to the Fall for the Book festival in Virginia, the D.C. area also can enjoy the Baltimore Book Festival, typically held during the same weekend as last weekend’s National Book Festival, starting today. This weekend, the Baltimore festival brings back Free Friday Feedback at 12 p.m., in which unpublished writers can bring three poems or up to five pages of double-spaced prose for some on-the-spot commentary from published writers. From book sales to performances by the Baltimore Public Schools, the festival offers entertainment focused on books, music, and more.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, during the My America Playwrights panel, Neil LaBute, Christopher Durang, and Lydia Diamond will talk about their roles as writers in theater and what it means to be a playwright. At 12 p.m. a tribute to activist poet Lucille Clifton, sponsored by Little Patuxent Review, will likely draw a big crowd, though it will have to compete for audience with Emily Giffin, whose books have become popular, including her latest book, Where We Belong. And as always, there will be a literary walking tour, local businesses displaying their products and services, and panels on women’s fiction, young adult romance, steampunk, and how to cross genres.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) will showcase the winners of the annual Individual Artist Awards for playwrights, and the Hope Family Choir will offer the soothing sounds of contemporary gospel music. At 2 p.m. there will be a musical library tour, and Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall, the creators of Ivy and Bean, will unveil the latest book in the series, Ivy and Bean Make the Rules. Maryland native Michael Tucker, former L.A. Law attorney Stuart Markowitz, returns to talk about his debut novel, After Annie. And if you miss Laura Lippman at the Virginia Fall for the Book Festival, you can catch her in Baltimore. Check out the full schedule.

This weekend is shaping up to be the best in books and reading all year.

Baby Proof. Not Bulletproof

Emily Giffin’s Baby Proof chronicles the struggles of one woman, Claudia Parr, who decides that she never wants to have children and how it impacts her relationships with her family, her friends, and her love life. I picked up this book as part of the Irresistible Review Challenge, and it is my last book to complete the challenge. I chose this book because it has gotten mixed reviews from some fellow book bloggers. I first saw this at the Written Word and her review was unfavorable, and a review from This Redhead Reads was equally unfavorable. I have not seen any positive reviews of the book, but that rarely turns me off from reading books that I believe to have an interesting premise.

Claudia Parr does not want children, and this decision impacts her relationships. She has taken the view on life that marriage and children are interlinked because when she meets a man, they automatically write her off because she does not want children. Then she meets Ben, her soul mate, and they both want the same childless life…or so she thinks. I’m not telling you anything you won’t find out from the book jacket.

***Spoiler Alert***

Ben and Claudia get married and travel spontaneously until their good friends get pregnant, and Ben changes his mind, decides he wants kids, and that Claudia should want them too. She does not feel the same way and is angry with him for breaking their deal, and she leaves their shared apartment to move back in with her friend. Soon she and her husband are engaged in divorce proceedings, and there is little discussion between the two about children, their marriage, or wanting to salvage their relationship, despite the fact that they believe they are soul mates.

Meanwhile, you learn that her mother left her and her sisters with their father…and that she is not very maternal. Claudia is more like her mother than she wishes to admit. Unfortunately, the problems grow worse as Daphne, her sister who is unable to become pregnant, asks Claudia to donate her eggs, and her other sister Maura continues to struggle with her unfaithful husband and being the perfect suburban mom.

***End Spoiler***

This book could have lost some weight, maybe about 100 pages or so. I wanted to skip through some large sections of the book, but held back from doing so.

The resolution of this book is unsatisfying. Claudia has done little to change her behavior and how she reacts to obstacles. While her conclusion about her relationships with her sisters and her ex-husband may be satisfactory under traditional societal norms, many of those women that determine they do not want children may be angered by the ending. I, on the other hand, am not angered by the ending so much as the lack of consistency in the character and Claudia’s inability to understand herself and really examine her identity in depth before making life altering decisions. Her indecision and in ability to engage in introspection, especially when it comes to her marriage, is mind boggling to me. I have not read any other Emily Giffin books, and this is probably not the one I should have started with. Other bloggers and friends have said that they love Giffin’s books.

Also Reviewed Here:
Book Escape