Get Lit

At the SW Literature Project, word junkies rejoice.

Tucson sure is one lit-friendly town. Nary a week goes by without some sort of signing, slam or soirée. This season's place to be for lovers of the printed page is the Southwest Literature Project's three-day festival. Incorporating the Arizona Historical Society's Holiday Bookfair and the first Lawrence Clark Powell Memorial Lecture, this year's fest begins tonight, December 13, and runs through Saturday.

The inaugural Powell lecture, named for the much-beloved author and librarian, will be delivered tonight by the delightful Denise Chávez. Her latest, Loving Pedro Infante (which I raved about in "The Power of Pedro," September 6), is a ribald riot of a book. And as if Chávez weren't enough to make you swoon, she'll be introduced by another Southwest sweetheart, Patricia Preciado Martin.

Chávez will also kick off the Bookfair on Friday, with a reception and book signing at 5 p.m. At 6, she'll be joined by more than 30 other authors, all gently flogging their latest works, which will be discounted 20 percent. This year's fair features a full plate of subjects--desert gardens and desert cities, cowboys and Indians, gabachos y mojados, history and hummingbirds--and a full roster of the usual (and some unusual) suspects, including the sweet Susan Lowell, the terrific Tom Miller, the great Greg McNamee and the sensational Simon Ortíz.

So get your book bolsa, or better yet, a self-propelled carreta. You'll need it to carry home your purchases. And while you're there, don't be shy about shooting the breeze with the writers, who, despite their miserable reclusive existences, can be quite gregarious.

Or, to make things really lively, you can do what I did one year: Get lit before you get your lit. Hit a few happy hours before heading to the sale. Buy books. Get them signed by authors. Then try to keep your sense of humor when someone points out that, through no fault but your own, every book's been signed by an author but none of the authors wrote the books they signed.