Sunday, May 22, 2016

Oakland Book Fesitval

Today was the second annual Oakland Book Festival. I couldn't make last year's, but this year's was great—lots of people turned out to learn about and talk about books and their impact on society, but mostly to celebrate books.

I was particularly interested in the session on Jack London, "The 100 Year Call of the Wild". 2016 marks 100 years since Jack London's death (and only 140 years since his birth; he died at 40). The panelists included Tarnel Abbott, great-granddaughter of Jack London, and a political activist in her own right; Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, college professor, and author of an upcoming biography on Jack's second wife, Charmian Kittredge London; Steven Lavoie, historian, poet, and librarian, currently in charge of the Temescal branch; Jay Williams, founding publisher and editor of the Jack London Journal, and author. The moderator was Jack Boulware, co-founder of Litquake.

Kudos to the moderator, Jack Boulware. You could do a whole conference on Jack London and his writing, so to keep things moving in the hour and 15 minutes available was quite a feat. Given the constraints, I'm sure everyone who attended wishes some aspect could have gotten more time, but there was one clear takeaway, even for those relatively new to Jack London: Jack was a complex and imperfect person; his writing and his beliefs were complicated, and evolved over time. To try to answer any question about him with a simple answer is to disregard the facts.

I'm guessing any of the other sessions were at least as interesting; I know for myself, I wish I'd had the time and energy to check out pretty much everything at the festival. But shoutouts to Nia King, Luan Stauss, and Brad Johnson for representing Oakland!

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