Every year around this time, my friend Clay Smith, literary director of Texas Book Festival, goes underground. Getting a breakfast taco date with him is nearly impossible, and a late night cocktail? Ask him in November.
That’s because he’s in the final crescendo of orchestrating one of the most respected literary gatherings in the country: slotting authors into sessions in The Texas State Capitol; organizing cocktail parties and ensuring that proper ingredients will be stocked in the cooking tent. Not to mention abundant puppets in the children’s area.
Entering into his 8th festival (this year the event will welcome upwards of 40,000 attendees), Clay has an astute take and an insider’s window on the most compelling trends in Southern Literature, so we asked him for the lowdown on what’s on his radar, as well as 5 books we should read right now.
Trends in Southern Literature:
1. Fiction about immigration: “We tend to get hard-hitting investigative books about immigration, but fiction about immigration this year is a nice change of pace,” Clay says.
Clay’s night stand suggestion: Michel Stone’s The Iguana Tree.
2. Books about war: “We’re doing the whole spectrum, from first-person memoirs by writers who are experiencing PTSD,” Clay says, “to war satire.”
3. Wrestling with Southern legacies: Two very different books, but two writers who are wrestling with various legacies of the South in intriguing ways include Attica Locke, a native Houstonian whose new thriller The Cutting Season is set on a plantation near New Orleans – set in 19th century and also present-day. Lynda Rutledge’s new novel is marketed as chick lit, but it’s much smarter than that, and it’s a very Southern novel set in Texas.