Posts Tagged ‘National Book Festival’

The 2012 National Book Festival-Part II: Authors, Authors Everywhere

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Most Of Our Group At The 2012 Book Fest

Pavillion Of The States- So Great !

If you are a book lover, you can’t help but be excited by the National Book Festival held each September  on the National Mall in Washington D.C.   We are fervent book lovers  so the sight and sounds of  so many nationally acclaimed authors giving interviews, making speeches  and autographing their books  is big time fun for us.  Well worth the 4+ hour drive from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to D.C.   The 2012 Festival  was no exception.  Sponsored by the Library of Congress,  held on Saturday and Sunday the 22nd and 23 of  September,  with over 125  authors, poets and illustrators this year,  the highest number in the history of the Festival,  taking  to the National Mall to “do their thing”.  Kicked off  in 2001 by First Lady Laura Bush,  a  former librarian,  the National Book  Festival has become a  big event with an estimated attendance last year of  over 200,000 people and probably a lot more than that this year.   From adults to teens down to little kids,  there is something fun for every reader.  Librarians from each state in the Union come to help staff the “Pavilion of the States”  where  every state has a booth featuring great giveaways for kids including  maps, book markers, stickers, brochures,  etc. about that state.   C-Span brings its  colorful big bus, the better to interview various authors for playback on Book TV.  And  as it has in previous years, once again, C-Span  gave away big complimentary cloth bags, hot pink this year,  for folks to carry their accumulated books and other goodies, a truly helpful  gesture.  Thank-you, C-Span.

Book Signings Underway

The Festival has two over-arching  components– the speeches given by the authors about their work and  the book signings by these authors after their speeches. Fortunately, all the author presentations are videotaped and made available on the Library of Congress website so it’s easy to watch your favorite author’s presentation at a later date in the comfort of your  own home.  Which leaves the book signings as our favorite part of the day.  The hard decision is selecting  which authors  to pick for the signings.  Each author will usually only sign 2 or 3 books and the lines are long so it’s hard to meet many authors in a day.  Especially when several authors you are trying to see are doing their signings in nearly the same time frame, figuring out how to juggle the lines is essential.  Definitely helpful to be there with a group so that multiple people can be standing in the lines  for  different authors. This year we were  lucky to be able to meet and get books signed and personalized by six different authors, about max we could manage and still have time for the States Pavilion.  Actually, when I look back on it, getting all six  was amazing because our first selected author’s signing,Gail Tsukiyama,  didn’t start until 11 am and the last selected author, Jeffery Toobin, didn’t start until 4:00 pm so that we actually did 6 authors in about 5 hours, less than an hour in line per person.  Of course,  there were a couple  authors whose books I brought with me, ever hopeful,  but convinced  that  their lines would be impossibly long.   Sure enough,  they were- Thomas Friedman and Patricia Cornwell had lines so monster that they might just as well have reached from the Washington Monument to the moon  they were so impossible.  I had brought 2 books by each of them,  just in case I was wrong in my predictions– but sadly  their books never left my  combination  “chair- book storage-weather protector,”    my big, long-handled,  rolling cooler on wheels !   (  Advice: Going to a Book Festival ?   Never leave home without your big, rolling cooler. )

Gail Tsukiyama Signing Her Latest Novel

First up for us was Gail Tsukiyama, author of  the delightful novel,   Street of 1000 Blossoms, also one of the authors invited to the very first Book Festival.  We were in second place in her line which meant that  she and we  were still bright- eyed and bushy- tailed.  Having brought several copies of her brand new book, A Hundred Flowers, as well as two copies each of her previous bestsellers, Women of the Silk and  The Samurai’s Garden, she was naturally inquisitive as to why we had so many duplicate copies.  Gifts, I said, Christmas gifts  for friends and relatives.  And  I’m sure they will not only enjoy her books but will also love her handwriting, it  is so beautiful, a striking Chinese calligraphy style hand,  the most elegant handwriting of any  autograph in my collection.  Since going to  my first Book Festival some years back, I have found that a personalized signed book from someone’s favorite author or about someones preferred subject matter is really a wonderful and unique gift.   And  unless the lines are just crushingly long, most  of the authors at the Festival are quite willing to write personalized  messages in the books they autograph and the volunteer staff  hands out little Post-Its so you can write out the message you want included as the author signs the book’s title page.  I’ve also found from experience that it’s a bit hard to decide on the perfect inscription while standing in line so over the years I’ve come to the point where decide which book is for whom and them I write out the inscription I want for them on my own Post-It, all ready to go beforehand. No doubt it reduces spontaneity but, on the other hand,  after one has stood for 3-4 hours in various lines in baking hot  ( 90 degrees this year) or damp drizzle ( year before last) , spontaneity may be somewhat over-rated.

Stephen L. Carter, Author, Philosopher, Professor

Next up, Stephen L. Carter. A super- interesting fellow… professor of law at Yale Law School and author of numerous non-fiction works on legal, political and moral issues.  For whatever reason, in 2002 he decided to turn his hand to fiction with his debut novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, which was a New York Times best seller.  He has since written four more striking novels, his latest being The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln.  They have all been can’t- put- them- down- once- you- start  books. In fact, I have introduced so many people to Dr. Carter’s novels I think that I should get a commission, but really, they are all terrific !  My favorite is New England White, a blockbuster of  a book, a suspense novel about politics set at an Ivy League university.  I’ve heard him in various discussion panels on cable news where he  always  was very knowledgeable. At the Book Festival he was quite personable,  making a humorous comment as he signed our books, 3 books per person times the 3 of us as we sort of all stood at the table together.  So I am pleased to say that I now have a signed,  personalized first edition copy of each of his novels plus 4 extra copies of Lincoln  to give as gifts.

Waving At Marine One As It Departs The White House

I must confess that  the Stephen L. Carter book signing alone would have made the whole trip worthwhile for me but still to come were several more, Robert Caro ( whose 4 tier line was so long he would only sign one book per person ),Tony Horowiz, Michael Connelly and Jeffery Toobin. By the end of the day we met and gotten books signed  by all four of those gentlemen. ( Toobin, who is the author of two books about the  U.S. Supreme Court,  was very  funny and quite down- to- earth, wise cracking that there was just about nothing he loved more than folks who buy multiple copies of his books.)  It was really a wonderful day.  We had lots of goodies for the kids from the States Pavilion, we had met 6 terrific authors, we had watched  the flags surrounding the Washington Monument flutter smartly in the breeze, we had waved gaily to Marine One, the President’s helicopter,  as it  passed overhead on it’s way to the White House just  a couple blocks away, not sure if the President was inside,  but we waved mightily anyway.  And for icing on the cake, we still have all the videotaped author speeches to look forward once  are added to the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival website,    What more could one ask from the National Book Festival except to hope to be there again next year, ready for more fun and more authors !

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

The 2012 National Book Festival- Part I: Getting There

Friday, September 28th, 2012

What with one thing or another,  it’s been a busy fall on the Eastern Shore of Virginia so we had been on again-off again about going to Washington DC for this year’s National Book Festival, held on the National Mall,  Sept. 22-23,  about a 4 hour drive  from the Eastern Shore.   But I did make hotel reservations,  just in case,  leaving plenty of time for cancellation if need be.  Naturally, it was at the 11th hour,  Thursday the 20th,  that everybody previewed their Friday- through- Monday schedule, thereafter declaring  the week-end a “go”.  This  meant commencing a hyperactive search for books by the authors we love who would be autographing their books at the Festival, checking  to see which books we  already had and which would need to be purchased in route at my favorite Barnes and Noble in Virginia Beach.   There is a book sales  tent at the Festival which offers the latest books from the scheduled authors but that involves standing in a line so I prefer to bring everything with me that I want autographed.  ( Also, if it’s a favorite author, I usually have some of their earlier books which I like to try to get signed as well.) As this was our 5th Festival,  I pretty much had everything down to a science.  Pack the books in a big rolling cooler with a long pull handle– the cooler is a great place to sit while in line, it holds important extra stuff like umbrellas & trail mix,  if it rains it keeps the  books  dry, etc.  In fact,  my # 1 piece of advice to a prospective Festival-goer—- best to come with a  combo chair-storage container- book protecting  cooler on wheels !

I had optimistically planned to leave the Eastern Shore  by 9 am.  Silly me  !  Finally pulled out of the driveway about 11:30 in a two car convoy,  Eldest Daughter and boyfriend in one car,  moi, hubby and two grandkids in another, ready for great adventures on the road.   Which in this case meant a first stop at COSTCO  in Virginia Beach to get  another GPS  because mine was acting a little weird and I would never try to drive in Northern Virginia/D.C. without one.  Which makes me wonder, how did we ever get around without a GPS ?  I still have a couple of old D.C.  map books sitting on the top of a bookcase and I still consider myself  proficient with a map, but really, as heavy traffic zooms by on I-495, with crazy drivers darting in and out,  cars plunging  for off-ramps, crowding in from on-ramps,  all at 65-75  mph,  I just can’t imagine how we ever managed to get anywhere safely and on  time without a GPS  !  Anyway, walked out of  COSTCO about 1 pm but by then the kids were  hungry.  Of course !   So,  off for a quick  lunch at Panera’s about a mile away and finally, about 2 pm, we were actually, definitely,  on the road to D.C.  So much for my original fantasy of a 9 am start !   After about 50 inquires of  “how much longer ? ”  and 2 pit stops, by 7 pm we were checking into our hotel in Arlington,  just a hop-skip-jump across the river from the National Mall, tired, hungry but excited.

For dinner  I had already planned to try Ray’s Hell Burger ,  the very casual burger place that  I had read President Obama had taken Vladimir Putin to for  burgers and fries, figuring that if it’s good enough for the President and the Russian  head of state,  then it was good enough  for the 6 of us.  And the kids love hamburgers.   But what I hadn’t reckoned with was how popular it would be on a beautiful Friday night.  Good Golly, Miss Molly !   Jammed inside, jammed out on the patio, a pretty long  line to belly up to the window and order.  But finally, order we did, snagged a table out on the patio and waited for our food, which arrived surprisingly fast.   The burgers were indeed delish, perfectly char-grilled on the outside, nice and moist inside, snuggled into a top quality bun.  In my case,  also topped with cheddar, grilled fresh mushrooms, grilled sweet red onions, all accompanied by Ray’s excellent homemade  “5 cheese”  mac and cheese, sweet potato fries and crunchy slaw.  Was it worth the wait ??    Final Answer:  Absolutely terrific burgers,  just don’t go on a Friday night unless you’re prepared to wait or unless you are with the President !   By dinner’s end,  we all were  exhausted and totally ready for a good night’s rest before heading across the Potomac River to the 2012 National Book Festival the next day. (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

The 2011 National Book Festival in Washington D.C.– A Great Time As Always !

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Although, sadly,  our schedule only allowed us to attend the Sunday portion of the 2011 National Book Festival held in Washington D.C. the week-end of  Sept. 24-25th,  we all still had a great time !   ( “We”  being self,  husband,  Eldest Daughter, a granddaughter and a grandson. )   We drove up from the Eastern Shore of Virginia late Saturday and as forecast,  Sunday dawned  misty, cloudy, definitely looking like rain any minute,  but I was completely prepared…  plastic rain ponchos, bright blue (  no losing anyone in your group in those neon things ),  small umbrellas for everyone,  books to be autographed completely safe from the rain enclosed in zip-lock bags  and stowed in 2 plastic rolling coolers which,  thankfully, served as mobile chairs as well as waterproof storage bins.   Happily,  it never did actually rain but the clouds kept things cool which was so great,  baking in the sun is not my thing.

The National Mall Which Stretches From The Capitol Building To The Lincoln Memorial

The  Book Festivals are sponsored annually by the Library of Congress and are held on the National Mall,  a long green space which more or less stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building.  The Book Festival is held on the portion which runs from 7th Street to 14th Street,  essentially from the Washington Monument to the Capitol building, a distance of  probably a half  mile.   However, when hoofing around,  pulling  what seems to be a 1000 pound cooler full of books,  I  can tell you it seems much, much longer !   This year’s Festival featured 112 authors divided into genres like  History and Biography,  Fiction and Mystery, Contemporary Life, Poetry and Prose,  The Cutting Edge,  Graphic Novels, Teens and Children.  Each author was allotted about 45 minutes to speak, scheduled in  the appropriate genre pavilion  and then an hour afterwards for signing books in the book signing area.  Fortunately the speeches are videoed  to be added to the  Library of Congress website so everyone can hear each author’s speech on-line– this is so, so helpful because  if you want to get books autographed by a popular author it is necessary to get in that author’s line long, long before the scheduled signing making  it virtually  impossible to hear an author’s  speech live and also get  their books signed too. Naturally, Murphy’s Law, the little individual tents for the book signings are at one end of the Mall and the various 8 or 9  pavilions where the authors actually speak are stretched out from there to the other end of the Mall,  hence the necessity for hoofing around on shank’s mare for the various events.

Pavilions At The Book Festival

Upon arrival about 11:00 am,  my husband headed out to listen to the speeches at  the “Contemporary Pavilion”  while I made a bee line for  book signing Tent #  14  where a  favorite author and raconteur  was scheduled to begin his signings at 2:00 pm.    Wondering who ?   Think old red tennis shoes, fire engine red sox, a  red tie  and the phrase, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon,  my home town.”   Yes, none other than the supremely talented Garrison Keillor,  author of  16 books, editor of  numerous other books as well as the  host and guiding light behind   “A Prairie Home Companion” ,  heard Saturday nights on National Public Radio, sponsored by Powdered Milk Buscuits  which  “give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done”  and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery –  “if you can’t find it at Ralph’s you probably don’t need it !  ”   We were about  7th or 8th in the Keillor line and I held our place while my daughter slipped over to journalist Bob Edward’s tent where he had just begun his signings.  My husband and Youngest Son both enjoy listening to Bob Edwards on XM Radio so I had copies  of his new book,  ” A Voice In The Box : My Life In Radio” ready to  be autographed as  Christmas gifts for them.

Garrison Keillor Signing Books At 2011 The National Book Festival

Garrison Keillor arrived on the dot of 2:00  and after speaking briefly with Bob Edwards,  who had come over to say hello from the adjacent tent,  his initial  order of business was to shake hands and have the official Festival photographer take a picture of  him with the  very first person in line.  I have often wondered if some of these authors realize what an effort it is for folks,  many of us not exactly spring chickens,  to stand in line for hours and hours just to say hello and get a book  signed.  Clearly Mr. Keillor understood  because not only did he make a nice fuss over Person # 1  (who probably had been in line  forever ), but  instead of  sitting at the table and chair set up at each tent for the authors,  Garrison Keillor  actually stood up for the entire time that he signed books  (which was much longer than an hour because his audience  had stretched all the way back to the street before they closed the line down to additional entrants.)   He was quite  gracious, personalized signings if requested, spoke to every  person,  had a question or funny remark for most,  big smiles.  (  Told me,  deadpan expression,  that the first edition I had of his first  Lake Wobegon book, Lake Wobegon Days,  was  so old that it couldn’t be  worth much,  maybe $5.00,  possibly I could get rid of  it at a garage sale. )   Upon personalizing a book for her,  he inquired about the derivation of  Eldest Daughter’s  first name,  Montaigne,  ( from Michel de Montaigne,  noted essayist and 16th century French philosopher,   whose essay on the education of children could still be a shining example to teachers everywhere).   Both of them had a good laugh when she explained how she had hated her name as a  child and had tried to convince her 4th grade  teacher that she was to be called Linda – – – which I only found out about when Montaigne came home with her papers signed as Linda !

Neal Stephenson was another scheduled author  whose books  I had packed in my cooler including  a first edition of one of my favorite books,  Cryptonomicon. A  blockbuster of a book which starts with War II,  it’s filled with more information than a non-mathematician would ever need to know about secret codes, cryptology, engineering  and the invention of the “Turing Machine”, the precursor to modern computers.  Alternating chapters create a story set in the 1990’s, the characters being descendants of the WWII characters who are using advanced telecom and  computer technology to create a secret data haven.  And along the way one also learns the best way to eat Captain Crunch !  Doesn’t sound that great but I can tell you it’s mesmerising !   I love long books because if you really are enjoying a book you don’t want it to end —  happily,  this book goes along for  over 900 pages, each page a joy – – except for the really detailed math pages but if you are a non-math person like me… well those pages are best just skipped over !

Neal Stephenson

China Express Restaurant In Washington DC, Home Of Delicious Homemade Noodles

After the Neal Stephenson signings there was still  time to slip over to hear Bob Edward’s lecture in the contemporary pavilion, quite interesting,  then a fast walk through a few of the other pavilions  and finally off to dinner in D.C.’s Chinatown.  We had a delicious meal at a Zagat reviewed restaurant, China Express at 746  6th Street, NW,  highly recommended in numerous reviews and rightly so.  The steaming hot noodle soup with pork slices was delicious,  tasty handmade noodles  properly chewy,  the roast pork buns lived up to their reputation and the eggplant in garlic sauce was absolutely perfect, a  melt- in-your- mouth dish with  a deliciously spicy sauce.   Definitely not much in the way of decor but excellent food,  generous helpings,  fast service,  the grandkids had a ball slurping up the long noodles, everyone agreed we had to eat here again when next in town.   We left  pleasantly full,  the day ended,  goodbye  2011 National Book Festival,  hello Eastern Shore.  Can’t wait until spring when the Library of Congress  announces  the 2012  Festival authors !
P.S.  I always love to hear about corporate giving for education and a shout-out to  Target is due here.  According to the official Festival brochure,  Target was the Distinguished Corporate Benefactor of the 2011 National Book Festival and  the company is on track to having donated one billion dollars  (that’s billion with a  B )  to education by 2015 through a program whereby  it donates 5%  of its income each year to the cause of improving education, particularly reading skills.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

A List Of My 5 Favorite Spy Novels And TV Series About World War II And The Cold War

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

I’ve had a little tune running around in my head for the past few days,  the  tune apparently often hummed or whistled by the French Resistance  as an informal  password during World War II.  Not that I have been hob-nobbing with anyone from the French Resistance lately but  ever since I got a  copy of  one of  my  favorite books,   Neal Stephenson’s  “Cryptonomicon“,  autographed during a week-end trip to Washington D.C. to attend the  Sept., 2011 National Book Festival,   I’ve been getting back into WWII  literature.   This then led to re-watching on DVD  the absolutely top notch,  terrifically suspenseful  BBC series 1, 2 and 3  of   “Wish Me Luck“.  A mini-series  featuring fictionalized stories of  real-life British spies, primarily women, it details the heroism of those  working undercover together with the Resistance in Occupied France and the theme song of  Series 2 and 3 consists of a few bars of that tune.  ( Not that they tell you this,  but one eventually figures it out. )

At any rate,  having that little tune ping-ponging around in my head has made me think about the  many spy novels and TV espionage series that I have enjoyed over the years and I decided to make a little list of the ones I have enjoyed the most.  There is almost nothing more enjoyable on a balmy Eastern Shore of  Virginia summer’s day, ( or a breezy spring or a crisp fall day for that matter ),  than sitting out on the screened porch,  bees buzzing,  birds singing, boats going by every once in a while,  ice cold tea at the elbow,  an exciting book in hand  and the time available to read it,  that’s the life of Riley for sure.  So…  the following  5  books are my  “spook”  favorites,  the top 4 re-read at least once,  maybe  twice,  because to me re-reading a book I  loved is like reuniting with an old friend.  Seriously, who could read “Gone With The Wind” or  “Hawaii”   just once  ??   Most of  the following cloak and dagger favorites  are set in Europe during the Cold War  but  “Schoolboy”, one of my  tied -for- 1st place espionage suspense novels,  is set during the Cold War period but  the action takes place   primarily in Viet Nam  and Hong Kong.

1.  “The Honorable Schoolboy”   by John Le Carre’  tied with  “Tinker,Tailor,Soldier, Spy”  also by John Le Carre’ , who had,  in real life,  actually been a part of the  British Secret Service.  It’s interesting to me that in an interview where he was asked what he considered his best work,  he did not list “Schoolboy”  but did list “Tinker,Tailor“.  Nevertheless,  “Schoolboy“,  which is his longest book  by far, running to almost  600  pages in paperback,  has a complicated story line which moves deftly between Asia and the UK,  and is still my personal  favorite even if it is not the author’s.  (  I confess that I am prone to prefer long books because once I get interested in a character,  I like them to stick around for a while ! )

2. “The Company”  by Robert Littel.  Also a very long book, close to 900 pages, this is a great read, each and every pages, which is sometimes not  the case  in  long  novels.  Utilizing all the bells and whistles of the trade,  this is a thoroughly  intriguing story of the struggle between the CIA and the KGB  to discover  ( or keep secret, depending on which  side one is on )   the identity of  a deeply placed KGB mole.  Explores  in detail  number of historical events and seems very much in-the-know about the inner workings of  the CIA.  Definitely is one of those books where once you start,  you just want to keep on reading  even if it is past midnight and you have to get up early the next day !

3.”The Charm School”  by Nelson DeMille.  This book is set in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War and gives an amazingly realistic picture of Russia of that time. It’s a fascinating story, another one of those can’t-put-it down novels. It seems like every time DeMille comes out with a new book they also do a reprint addition of  “Charm School” so I have given copies of  this book as a gift to several people, all of whom loved it too.  In his new forward to one of the latest reprints,  DeMille indicates that this book had at one point  become suggested  reading for new  US foreign service officers which lends some interesting credibility to the story line.   DeMille has written a number of  excellent novels  but I think this is his very best,  with “Word Of Honor” ,  an unusual combination of  a courtroom suspense drama and a Viet Nam era war novel,  coming in a close second.

4.”Cryptomicon”  by Neal Stephenson.   ( Did I mention, maybe for the 10th time,  that I now have a  personalized signed copy ? )  Technically not a true spy story but  it does have its great spy moments.   Plus endless and fascinating detail on the  WWII code breaking efforts which led to the invention of the computer,  some details of  which are  probably best understood by tech whizzes.  Nevertheless,  it is a fabulous book,  initially set at the outbreak of WWII  and continuing forward for decades thereafter.  Interesting and funny, extremely well written, covering many issues.  At nearly 900 pages,  plotted  in alternating chapters between the War period and present day,  there is plenty of time to enjoy the myriad of  characters and their offspring  as they traverse  the world,  doing lots of wild things.  Plus the good guys win, who could ask for anything more ?

5. “The Unlikely Spy”   by Daniel Silva.  Although most of Daniel Silva’s  subsequent books have featured a very interesting character named Gabriel Allon and are set in in current times, ( my favorite of those being “The Secret Servant” ),   “The  Unlikely  Spy”  is set  during the Cold War and  proceeds at a very fast pace.  It  has all the satisfying complexities  and duplicities one expects in such a book plus, unusual for Silva,  a sadly ambiguous ending,  the very sort one always expects from Le Carre’.

And  the TV spies ?   Nobody does espionage on the telly like  the  BBC,  hands down,  nobody else can  hold a candle to BBC.  So here is a list of my favorites, not all BBC,  and  several  are among  my favorite cloak and dagger books which have been dramatized for  television or film.

1.Wish Me Luck–  This BBC series, 3 seasons altogether,   is hold- your- breath dramatic.  Based on real life, the characters are completely realistic.  Gives a real sense of what the risks were for undercover agents during World War II and a program everyone should watch as a little reminder of the serious  sacrifices made behind the lines by so many during the War.

2. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.   A  6 part mini-series of the Le Carre’s book by the same  title.  Staring  Alec Guinness, this is a very dramatic production and handles the multiple sub-plots very well which I’m sure wasn’t easy to do in the time allotted.

3. The Sleepers .  A fall-off-the-sofa-laughing  mini-series,  by BBC,  who else.  Staring  Warren Clarke and Nigel Havers,  the plot is very simple —  after 20 years, two deep cover Soviet sleeper spies living in the UK get called to active duty but they have become too comfortable as  British citizens and revolt against  the call to duty.  The antics and carryings on as the KGB hunts them down  are  simply hilarious, quite different from most  espionage productions, everyone I’ve loaned this DVD to has  simply loved it.

4. “A Perfect Spy”  ties  for 4th place with “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold”  staring Richard BurtonBoth are John Le Carre’  superb novels made into superb dramas.  And both with such sad, sad endings.   That is one of the things one must be prepared to accept about Le Carre’s work–  the endings are usually quite sad or very ambiguous.  As a person who prefers  a happy or at least a somewhat less sad ending,  I find, for me,   it is not my favorite aspect of  his work.  Not looking for Pollyanna but maybe a light at the end of the tunnel  which is not the on-coming train  ?

5. The Man Who Knew Too Little  staring Bill Murray ties  with Hopscotch  staring  Walter Matthau,  both American made films, staring well-known American actors.  Like  BBC’s  Sleepers,  both of these  movies are absolutely hilarious.   Bill Murray turns in what I think is one of  his  best performances ever in this comedy about spies and mistaken identity.   In  Hopscotch, Matthau and co-star Sam Waterston, longtime  favorites of mine,  are outstanding,  filmed 1980,  shot on  location in Austria,  the UK and Washington DC., it’s  absolutely delightful.  Such fun,  check out both of  these funny, funny movies.

So those are some of  my personal espionage favorites.  If  anyone decides to check them out,  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.   Maybe you’ll even find one or two that you’ll put  on your  “read again”  or  “see again”  list.  Bon appetit’.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Finding The Silver Lining — How I Ended Up At The Cape Charles, Virginia Tomato Festival After All !

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I’m a natural optimist  and  I do like to find the  Silver Lining if I can.   When I came  down with a terrible cold last  Tuesday and by  Thursday  still felt like a huge nose attached to a worn out body,  I realized that I just could not subject the other three  who would be in the car with me to a four hour ride  to D.C.  enclosed with Miss Sneezy.   So I said,  in my most pitiful voice ,  you-all  just go to the Book Festival without me .  (See Sept.  21st post about  looking forward to the  2010 National Book Festival ( )   being  held  Saturday,  Sept. 25th on the National Mall in Washington D.C. )    Don’t worry about me,  poor,  poor sick me,  said  I.   Well  OK,   said they,  we won’t worry about you,  we’ll be on our way on Friday morning,   really sorry you can’t come,  we’ll try to get  some of your books signed  for you,  watch the  Book  TV  coverage.

But then,  ironically,  an important client of my daughter’s who was flying  in from the mid-West to the Eastern Shore of  Virginia  to look at waterfront property on Thursday the 24th decided to stay over through Saturday to look at additional beachfront acreage.   So  that took her out of the trip as well.   And then my friend’s  son’s  lasik surgery got bumped from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon,  so another one bites the dust.  That  left only my husband in a position to make the trip,  but loyalist that he is,  he  pledged to stay by my side,  replenishing Kleenex and orange juice as necessary,  commiserating  with my loss of  the opportunity to get the books I had purchased by Michelle Norris,  Anchee Min,  David  Remnick  and Scott Turow autographed by them,  planned as  special Christmas gifts  for several people.  ( I realize that it may not seem all that special.  But trust me when I say that after you have stood in line about two hours per each author,  in the hot sun,  the only food all day being the trail mix and a PBJ  you  fortunately brought along but which got somewhat squished at the bottom of  your rolling briefcase,  washed down sparingly by a warm Desani,  portapotties about 10 miles off  but you are worried about leaving the line in case of a ruckus about getting back in,  feet aching even though you’re wearing your most comfortable Birkenstocks,  weary arms clutching the max- allowed- per- author three or four books,  open to the title pages as ordered by the event staff,   yellow post-it notes peeking over the edges of the title pages whereon  you have,  after much wracking of the brain,  written the  pithy phrases you want the admired author to inscribe for the recipient……  Well,  after all that,  I don’t care if  it’s just an inscribed  “Manual of  Insurance Rates”   instead of a John Grisham  1st edition —  by golly,  it   is  special !!!!  )  Anyway,  the 11th annual National Book Festival is coming up in just 361  more days,  wonder who the authors will be  ?

But back to the Silver Lining.  In order to go to the Book Festival,  I  would  have had to miss the 3rd annual Cape Charles Tomato Festival.   So now,   if I felt up to it,  we could attend. Possible  Silver Lining.   Mid- afternoon,  pocket full of cough drops,  I summoned up the energy to slip down  to Cape Charles with my husband.  It was a pretty day,  blue skies,  warm,  breezes blowing in from the  Chesapeake Bay.   My husband and I both  always like the ArtWalk and this year was no exception — lots of mediums exhibited,   sidewalk tables plus snow white individual tents  featuring watercolors,  sculpture,  glasswork,  oils,  stained glass,  decoy carvings, etc.,  up and down Mason Avenue as far as the eye could see.   On one of the next- to- last sidewalk tables,  I came across  my art  purchase of the day…….  a  whimisical  watercolor,  original and framed,  a pair of  charming orange seahorses,  outlined in red,  with large aquamarine eyes,  set against a vivid  backgound of  various blues,  white bubbles and little  red hearts floating upwards  as the seahorses  shyly peek  at each other.   The whole painting was so vibrant,  I love seahorses,  I have a perfect place to hang it,  I could not resist.

Continuing on down the sidewalk,  past those last lucky diners to be able to enjoy a bowl of  the ambrosial tomato basil bisque  being served at Cape Charles Coffee House,  we  crossed the street to see the antique cars exhibit.    Arriving  just after the judging was completed,  we watched as the trophies were  being awarded.  Although I am not that into cars,  I was impressed with the 1930 Model A,  black of course,  which looked like it just rolled off the assembly line.  (  You’ll remember that Henry Ford famously said that his customers could have the Model A in any color they wanted—- just as long as they wanted black !  )  Among others,  a trophy was awarded to a 1955  mint condition Chevy painted in beautiful tones of cream and  deep burgandy,  owned by MaryLou and John  Thornton,  whose cute-as-a-button two year old grandaughter,  Andrea,  stole the awards ceremony as she presented  the trophies.  And that pretty much did it for me,  tired,  still not fully recovered,  ready to go home and flip on the television.    And so,  a Silver Lining after all  — I got a fun painting at the Cape Charles Tomato Festival and then spent the rest of the afternoon in comfy air conditioning,  enjoying  Book TV’s  ( )  live coverage of the National Book Festival  direct from C-Span’s  little studio set up in the huge History and Biography pavilion,  temperature  in D.C.  estimated  at a hefty 90 + degrees  and no Chesapeake Bay breezes.  Hi, ho  Silver Lining.

It’s An Easy Day Trip From Virginia’s Eastern Shore To Washington D.C. So I’m Looking Forward To Going To The 2010 National Book Festival

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Virginia's Eastern Shore's Location On The Eastern Seaboard

One of the nice things about living on the  Eastern Shore of Virginia  is how easy it is to go elsewhere.  Sort of an oxymoron thought process– it’s good to be here so I can go elsewhere.  But it’s true !   Virginia’s  Eastern Shore is actually within a half day’s drive of many of  the great spots  on the East Coast,  it’s the perfect place to buy a property which is a home base for get-a-way trips to lots of exciting events and places.   About six hours from my office door  to emerging  from the Holland Tunnel onto Canal Street in Manhattan.. ..  dim sum in Chinatown is calling to us.  ( And we love the roast pork buns and coconut buns at Maria’s Bakery on Mott Street. )  About three hours to Charlottesville  and the beautiful vistas of  the Blue Ridge mountains and some of Virginia’s finest wineries (  ).   About  four hours to Baltimore,  site of Inner Harbor and its fabulous aquarium  and of course,  Annapolis is nearby.  And let’s not forget about Virginia’s Golden Triangle,  the  historic towns of  Jamestown,  Yorktown and  Williamsburg,  so close,  only an hour and a half away  ( ),  always lots of interesting things going on there.  Over the Christmas holidays we nearly always visit Colonial Williamsburg  (  )  to enjoy the  bonfires,  fife and bugle corps , the nightly  Illumination of the Christmas  Tree,  the stunning  all -natural decorations,  topping it  off with  a fabulous dinner at  the Regency Room at  the Williamsburg Inn.

Moonlight Illuminates The U.S. Capitol and The Festival Tents

I  could wax on and on about places to visit within a half day’s drive but this post is supposed to be about going to the 2010 National  Book Festival.  This year marks  the 10th anniversary of the Festival,  held annually in Washington D.C.,    sited out on the National Mall,  organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress.  It  will be the second time we have attended,   having had a marvelous time at last year’s Festival we are really looking forward to going again.   I  had learned  about the Festival some years ago but as September is a busy month in real estate,   it’s really a difficult time to get away for several days.   But last summer when I read about the  2009 Festival,  so many authors,  fiction and non-fiction,  that I truly love and admire were scheduled to appear that it was simply impossible not to go !    ( Actually,  once I discovered that  Ken Burns,  John Irving  and John Grisham would be there,  speaking and autographing their  books,  I can assure you that  wild horses couldn’t have dragged me away. )   Irving’s novels, especially Garp,  Owen Meany and Cider House,  have long been favorites.  ( Couldn’t really get into  Son of the Circus  but I met a fellow while standing in the long,  long Irving book signing line who thought it was his best work and had re-read it six times.  So I’m going to give it another shot this winter.)    And who doesn’t like John Grisham — his work is so popular  that  he must be a multi- billionaire by now !    My husband and I both admire Ken Burns and so I toted four copies ( one for  us,  three for gifts )  of  Burns’  then brand new National Parks book  to be autographed — trust me when I say that after standing for almost two hours in his book signing line, ( in a light drizzle,  no less,  thank Heaven  I brought those little yellow rain ponchos ),   those  four copies of  National Parks seemed  to weigh four hundred pounds and my arms had stretched four feet.   ( I know it is better to give than to receive but the three people who got a signed Ken Burns book for Christmas owe me a new arm. )  

The 2010 National Book Festival Poster

At any rate,  the 2009 Festival,  which was a two day event,  also featured acclaimed authors Nicholas Sparks, Lee Childs and Daniel Silva  (both of whom I particularly enjoy ),  Michael Connelly,  James Patterson,  Judy Blume,  Sue Monk Kidd,  Jon Meachum ( whose book  American Lion  I had just finished reading  ) and Gwen  Ifill,  the excellent  moderator of  PBS’   Washington Week,  plus many other novelists,  poets and non-fiction writers.   About a  thirty-fecta of  literary talent,  all in the very same place on the very same week-end.  Can you believe it ???   Thank-you,  Library of Congress !!   Anyone who truly loves books and reading can appreciate the real  thrill of attending the 2009  National Book Festival and seeing,  hearing  speeches by and getting books autographed by some of ones favorite authors .  So although,  for me,  the 2010 Festival doesn’t have the same star power,  my husband and I,  a daughter and a friend are all looking forward to leaving the Eastern Shore,  making that easy trip to spend the week-end in  Washington DC  and hearing  Ken Follett,  Scott Turow,  Anchee Min,  Michelle Norris of NPR  and   David Remnick  speak and getting them to autograph their  books for us — and yes,  I’m thinking Christmas as well. ( A  signed,  first edition copy of a book  by the  giftee’s  favorite author makes  a great Christmas present,  especially when it comes with the story of  how the giftor stood in line forever in the sun/rain/dark of night,  feet aching,  just  to get it autographed especially for them. )  So let’s hear it for books,  authors and the brick and mortar book stores like Barnes and Nobles and Borders who hold the world within their four walls !   And let’s hear it for living on the Eastern Shore of  Virginia,  so centrally located that a whole other lifestyle dimension is opened by the ease with which you can get away to so many other places !   Applause, applause,  applause,  ad infinitum !