This was the fourth of the annual literary event, all taking place on Telfair Square.  It’s a superb setting with easy access to everything the festival has to offer.  Speakers and presentations took place in the Jepson and the Telfair as well as the Trinity United Methodist Church and in a tent outside.  There were booksellers and authors all looking to ply their wares among like-minded readers.  
There was almost too much to choose from in terms of speakers.  They could easily spread the presentations over the course of two days and avoid forcing attendees to make somewhat difficult choices between authors. 
I began by listening to Michael Malone in the Telfair Rotunda.  Among grand portraits and landscapes, he recollected stories from his childhood.  He focused on the unique qualities of Southern family and how these traits have made it to so many of his books. He commented that, “You never hear about a great Northern Novel”, and joked about vegans who “won’t eat anything cooked by anyone wearing a belt.”  His latest is Four Corners of the Sky
After a quick bite from Thrive, I attended the presentation by Jonathan Rabb in the sculpture gallery of the Telfair. I’ve heard him speak a couple of times before but I really enjoy his topics.  His was a popular lecture — It started late because they had to keep adding chairs! He also has a easy-to-listen to style, most likely from his numerous teaching pursuits.  He now lives in Savannah, where he finished the 3rd book in his trilogy of Nikolai Hoffner, entitled The Second Son. Rabb spoke about the fun of writing historical fiction.  There is a “special relationship between the writer and the reader.  You and I know how the ‘story’ ends, but the characters don’t.” 
At 3:30pm, I chose to see Lenore Hart speak about her new book, The Raven’s Bride.  This was a tough call as Tobias Wolff was also speaking at the same time. Still, her topic of Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Clemm drew me to listen to her.  She was named after the poem “Lenore“and her dedicated research was evident.  She found ways to inject humor into a dramatic ghost story.  I only wish Ms. Hart had spoken more and read to us from the book less.  I would have much preferred to have heard more about discoveries during her research for the book.  
Following her presentation, I went to see Roy Blount, Jr. present his findings on Duck Soup and the Marx Brothers.  (Again, Chuck Leavell was scheduled opposite this lecture, which was frustrating.)  Blount has written a book called Hail, Hail, Euphoria!, a rather unlikely cinema studies handbook.  His talk consisted of watching very funny clips from this classic 1936 film, and his commentary on the brothers.  Much of their background can be found in the undertones of this movie.  Sibling rivalry, xenophobia, and prejudice abound.  
It was simply a gorgeous day – they couldn’t have asked for better weather.  With a few scheduling tweaks, this will be an amazing festival.  As it is, you can’t ask for much more than a live oak canopy, some lemonade and a book to read. 
More photos: 

All photos by the author. All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “Savannah Book Festival – 2011”

  1. Thanks for the great post Meaghan! Glad you had such a good time at the 2011 SBF–it really was splendid, no?

    Best, Katherine Oxnard Ellis
    Board Member
    Savannah Book Festival

  2. @Undine – It *is* incredible how little we know about either of them. It's also strange how little we hear about things we *do* know – like Poe's balloon hoax!
    At any rate, it piqued my interest and now I want to read both! Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Hej!

    Just a short "Hello" from your newest follower – who is more than happy to find a bit about the Marx Brothers in your post AND Edgar Allan Poe on the sidebars!! An irresistible mixture for me! :")

    Have a great week – and: I am following your film blog, too.

  4. @Undine – It *is* incredible how little we know about either of them. It's also strange how little we hear about things we *do* know – like Poe's balloon hoax!
    At any rate, it piqued my interest and now I want to read both! Thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Well, the problem with writing about Virginia is that there is virtually no solid information about her life. (You'd be surprised at how little there is about her husband's!) In his novel, O'Neal was forced to basically "invent" most of his story. I think what happened is that Hart borrowed his material, assuming that it was based on some sort of historical record. I suspect she had no idea most of this simply came out of this previous novelist's imagination.

  6. @Savannah Book Festival, Katherine – Had a great time!

    @Undine – Thanks for the recommendation. I will look into it. And yes, Hart's book is definitely fiction but my understanding is that it's based on the little information there is about Virginia (Clemm) Poe. We shall see once I read it!

  7. If you're interested in Virginia Poe and "The Raven's Bride," you might want to look up Cothburn O'Neal's "The Very Young Mrs. Poe," another novel about her that came out in the 1950s. It seems to me there are some striking similarities between the two books–several scenes in particular are, in my opinion, all but identical.

    I'd really be curious to see if anyone else feels the same after reading both books.

    P.S. Fair warning: Hart's book is clearly fiction, not biography. A lot of it has no basis in known fact.

  8. Thanks for the great post Meaghan! Glad you had such a good time at the 2011 SBF–it really was splendid, no?

    Best, Katherine Oxnard Ellis
    Board Member
    Savannah Book Festival

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