Friday, November 03, 2006

Obama Wows Crowd at Texas Book Festival

Obama Wows Crowd at Texas Book Festival

Perfect weather blessed this past weekend's Texas Book Festival at the State Capitol in Austin, where Barak Obama set a record for book sales at the event. According to Barnes & Noble, Obama sold more than 1,000 copies of his political manifesto, "The Audacity of Hope,'' beating past record holders Bill Clinton and local favorite Barbara Bush.

Obama, who signed 365 copies before heading off to a meeting with Democratic movers and shakers at the Driskill Hotel, opened this years Festival at a ceremony that honored Austin writer Louis Sachar and Texas Monthly magazine for their contributions to Texas letters. The enthusiastic audience that gathered in the Texas State Capitol House chamber to hear Obama speak greeted the junior Senator from Illinois with wild cheering and a standing ovation, suggesting that he has a willing base of supporters in Austin should he run for President in 2008.

Also on hand for the weekend were Gore Vidal, touring for his new memoir "tk," condemned the Bush administration in front of an audience of well-heeled guests at the annual Gala, part of the fundraising the Festival does for Texas public libraries. Thriller writer Alan Furst, attracted more than two hundred to his presentation at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, where his archives are housed alongside with those of Julian Barnes and Norman Mailer. Notables, including Richard Ford, Irish novelist Colm Toibin, Amy Sedaris also drew enthusiastic audiences, but were rivaled by Texas favorites including Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein, whose new book, "Vice: Dick Cheney and the Highjacking of the American Presidency" drew a capacity crowd.

Cheney took body blows elsewhere in the weekend as well, when Vidal and New York Times columnist Marueen Dowd took to attacking the VP during an interview with Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith, referring to the VP as "our S&M vice president" and "Bush's Iago" respectively.

A little bit of New York publishing glamour also descended on Texas, with a handful of editors in attendance, including Ann Close, senior editor at Knopf, who publishes four Austin writers: National Book Award finalist Larry Wright, Steve Harrigan, Greg Curtis, and Sarah Bird, who was all smiles after Close told her she was publishing Bird's next novel. Dave Patterson, senior editor at Holt, told PW Daily he was impressed. "It's amazing who they have," said Patterson. "It's easily got to be one of the best events I've seen."

Elsewhere, Jay McInerney, promoting his collection of wine columns, tk, left a few Austinites smirking after sniffing a plastic cup of wine handed to him at a barbecue.

In the exhibition tents, a representative from Sony gathered the curious to his booth showing off the company's attractive new e-book reader, perhaps giving a glimpse of what the future of books might look like to the denizens of the tech happy town and one of the last remaining Democratic strongholds in this deep red state.

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