Well, I’m back. I had a great time at the Montana Festival of the Book. There were many memorable moments, but I’ll restrict myself–due to fatigue and an imminent conference call–to two. First, during the “When Commerce and Controversy Collide” panel, devoted to discussion of Sherry Jones’ The Jewel of Medina, the panelist seated immediately to Jones’ left started out by saying that he didn’t expect to like the book; that, in fact, he didn’t like the book; and that it was merely “teen chick lit.” (Jones later countered by saying that it was mostly about a teenager, which made the protagonist’s petulant tone entirely logical.) I haven’t read the book and can’t judge its merits, but given the way most book panels turn into love fests, kudos to the man (his name escapes me) for speaking his mind.
Second, during a panel in which I took part, “Crime Pays,” the irascible Peter Bowen (Nails, 2006) responded to our moderator’s introductory remarks with a courtly bow and a statement to the effect of, “With all due respect, professor, that kind of bullshit is why I left college in the first place.” Later, when an earnest young student asked us to speak about the constraints of genre on our writing, I suggested that Bowen might like to take a crack at it–he responded by standing up, putting on his hat, and saying he was going out for a cigarette. Which he apparently did–he was gone for the next 10 or 15 minutes.