Did you have a good weekend? I did. But I always say that, which is why I thought I should start writing this column. Some people who live here in Las Vegas say, “You always do such cool stuff on the weekends.” Some people who don’t live here think that the only options locals have for diverting themselves on their time off are losing money at blackjack and waiting in line at nightclubs. I never do either of those things. I’m sure many other people who live here spend time on the Strip and just love it. I’m a writer, though, and can’t afford a bottle of vodka that costs any more than Albertson’s retail price. And I still have a pretty great time.
For instance — nerd alert! — I spent most of Saturday at the Las Vegas Book Festival. A few weeks ago, I was asked to talk to Daniel Gumbiner (pictured) for a session about his first novel, the Boatbuilder, which had been recently long-listed for the National Book Award. Yeah. I know. As if that didn’t make him a big enough deal, he’s also the editor of the Believer, the smartest magazine I can legitimately read without giving away that I’m trying to look smarter than I am. Anyway, the Believer has been published by the Black Mountain Institute at UNLV for the past year, give or take, so Daniel lives in Las Vegas. Now that my official reason for texting him has passed, I hope he will still answer my messages, because he was really cool to talk to and totally humored me when I pretended to have read all of Dave Eggers’ stuff.
Even without the major highlight of getting to interview a National Book Award nominee, the book festival would have been fun. The weather was perfect, sunny and cool, and the schedule was packed with big literary names. I especially liked the sessions featuring Claire Vaye Watkins and Derek Palacio (shameless plug for my segment with them on KNPR’s State of Nevada), and the food truck with the falafel veggie burger. Oh, and also the fact that there were printed maps and schedules this year. Way to go, City of Las Vegas and Library District!
The book festival was good, but was it magical? No, it was not. What was magical, however, was awakening to the sound of raindrops on my tin patio roof at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. For anyone reading this who may not know, Southern Nevada has been in a drought for, well, forever. It’s so dry here, you could cut glass with the dehydrated worms that crawl out from the over-irrigated lawns onto the sidewalk for air and then die. The rain did keep me from going on a much-anticipated bike ride, but at least all those lawns got an extra layer of water to keep them green this winter!
I’m definitely not feeling sorry for myself about that. I feel sorry for you, though, if you didn’t get tickets to the Crucible at Nevada Conservatory Theatre, because it’s the best play I’ve seen so far this year. Darren Weller (who, I like to think, I discovered) directed such a dark, creepy version of the Arthur Miller classic that I found myself clinging to my husband like it was a horror flick and we were on our first date. I cried off and on from beginning to end, mainly because I couldn’t help thinking about climate change and how we, the sane people who are aware of and worried about it, find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to defend it against the insane claims of a bunch of self-interested brats (and the adults who are manipulating them for their own financial gain). If this interpretation is too dense for you, give the play a read and invite me out for a beer. I’ll be happy to unpack it more then.
Meanwhile, try to get a ticket if you still can. The Crucible runs through October 28. You’ll have to wait a year for the next Las Vegas Book Festival, I’m afraid. But there’s always plenty to read until then. I recommend starting with the Boatbuilder. Cheers!