Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial (The Unusually Long Book Fest Edition)

This is a two-part posting, folks. The first part is about the annual Texas Book Festival and the second is about my discovery that despite Austin’s buoying progressiveness in a sea of Texas rednecks, I still live in a state with a shockingly brazen, Deep South mentality.
This here’s the Texas Book Festival. It was conceived and executed, so to speak, in 1995 by Laura Bush to promote Texas authors, but it has since gone international and attracted tens of thousands of literary aficionados, year after year. The festival's tents stretch several city blocks in front of the Capitol for a single weekend out of the year. There are readings, performances, and demonstrations, and you can often times meet a favorite author or two. There’re usually panels of ‘em pompously speaking from House and Senate floor podiums within the Capitol building or they're signing within tents. You can find local and statewide publications ranging from cookbooks to periodicals to fiction to...The New York Times? Why was that there? I don’t know. Anyway, I ran into Mr. and Mrs. Bash along with a sibling Bash, and together we met a friend who works at the Capitol and received a guided walk through with an inside man’s knowledge. That was cool.

This picture requires some explanation. While it looks like a 50s diner, it’s actually the office of Representative Joe Pickett. He tricked it out retro-style, presumably because working in a Norman Rockwell painting is much more pleasant than the windowless basement where his office is located. I'm not quite sure how to react to it.
This is an acknowledgment to the Confederate dead. I’ve seen the statue before but never really took the time to pay it any attention. I find an eerie correlation to the disconnected idealism of Joe Pickett’s office and the clear animosity in this Confederate tribute, but I can’t quite figure out the connection because I have a problem with this supposed "critical thinking." Perhaps I’m grasping at nothing here. That fellow at the monument’s pinnacle is none other than Confederate president Jefferson Davis. No big deal. It’s all historical, but then I read the memorial’s inscription:

For State rights Guaranteed under the Constitution. The people of the South, animated by the spirit of 1776, to preserve their rights, withdrew from the Federal compact in 1881. The North resorted to coercion. The South, against overwhelming numbers and resources, fought until exhausted.
During the war, there were twenty two hundred and fifty seven engagements; in eighteen hundred and eighty two of these, at least one regiment took part. Number of men enlisted:
Confederate armies, 600,00; Federal armies, 2,859,132.
Losses from all causes:
Confederate, 437,000; Federal, 485,216.

If you’re not schooled or interested in American history, you can trust me when I say that this is fucked up and even a little unsettling. You’re free to draw your own conclusions, but I may be returning to this subject later so that I may help you see it my way. I’m still scratching my head over the audacity of "to preserve their rights." The book festival, however, is barrels of geek fun. It’s over now, but it's still small enough to be a great opportunity for recently published authors, so drill down here for more info.


f8hasit said...

When was the monument erected?
That may shed some light onto their blanket statement...
Very interesting though. I mihgt have to do a little historical research on my own now!

Hey, how was your costume received over the weekend?

Bash said...

I want my office to look like a strip club... complete with pole.

carma said...

Looks like good times (minus all the dead); I can browse for books for hours.

C. Andres Alderete said...

Nancy, you can start here: http://txudc.org/
A historian friend told me the Daughters of the Confederacy were responsible for many Confederate memorials and she guessed it was put up in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Either way, they're still a bunch of Nazis.

C. Andres Alderete said...

Chris, I'm sure you mean, "complete with strippers."

Carma, it is good times. It was a lovely day too.

Heather said...

Hi. I found you at f8hasit's page. I don't know much about facts of history, but interesting post. I wanted to go to the book festival, but it's just too far. 2 hr drive one way. Great pics!

Chrissy said...

This looks like a very cool event. I can't get over that office. Very bizarre.

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