Whether you’re reading these words on the page or by the pixel, chances are you already know that books are not ends unto themselves. It’s not so much the quarter-hours clocked with one’s nose in a book, after all, that makes reading so unassailably good as it is the power of a book to recast what happens once we close its cover and set it aside. Books can stir deep discontent, poking at our imaginations and urging us to make the world around us a touch more equitable. They can make us more empathetic, capable of understanding the motivations of people who wake up every day on the other side of the equator, or who voted differently in the last presidential election. They can give us a detailed tour of the interior of a ballistic missile submarine, or methodical guidance to a better loaf of brioche.
At this year’s Arkansas Literary Festival (April 25-28), that power is as visible as ever, with visits from a five-time James Beard Award winner who burned down her mother’s kitchen at age 12 (Dorie Greenspan); a satirist who imagines a world in which African-American people can undergo “demelanization” surgery to become legally “American White” (Maurice Carlos Ruffin); an Azerbaijan-born art instructor who uncovers the ways in which the “overdrawn brains” of humans can find peace and ease by practicing the art of doing nothing at all (Roman Muradov). Here, we talk with two authors visiting Little Rock as guests of the Arkansas Literary Festival — novelist Esmé Weijun Wang and graphic novelist Liana Finck — as well as Little Rock native Rhett Brinkley, who presents his debut essay collection as part of this year’s schedule of events. See the full schedule at arkansasliteraryfestival.org, and a list of our picks.