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Depth of Experience 

Participants at this year's Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival have inked their lives on paper.

"Even people working on their own memoirs," Laura Miller wrote in a recent New York Times piece, "will quickly follow up the announcement with a disclaimer explaining that while they hate the form -- it's self-indulgent, spurious and so over -- nevertheless they are, sheepishly, writing a memoir."

Indeed, we cannot escape the memoir as a literary form; just a few years ago, Gambit Weekly made the genre a theme for a Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival package. It's getting to where you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting someone ready to spill their life story. But is it "so over"? As New Yorker film critic David Denby, author of the provocative memoir American Sucker, points out, it's risky to state a prejudice toward an entire literary form.

Maybe that's because it's the story being recalled and the telling of the story that matters, just like anything else in literature. For this year's package, we begin with Erik Spanberg on news veteran Bob Schieffer's look back on an amazing career, This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV. Schieffer will conduct a master class on surviving as a "hard news" journalist at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Historic New Orleans Collection; he will also join Douglas Brinkley and John Maginnis for a panel discussion on politics at 1 p.m. Friday at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré and will discuss his career with Dale Edmonds at 4 p.m. Friday at Le Petit.

David Denby tells David Lee Simmons about the critical backlash to his book about investment madness as captured in American Sucker. Denby will offer a master class at 9 a.m. Friday at The Historic New Orleans Collection, appear on a panel discussion about memoirs (with Eddy L. Harris and Lewis Nordan) at 10 a.m. Saturday at Muriel's Jackson Square Restaurant, and discuss film adaptations of books with Cathleen Schine at 1 p.m. Sunday at Muriel's.

Michelle Tea tells Eliza Strickland of the "slow implosion" of Tea's family in The Chelsea Whistle. Tea, who also will appear at this spring's Saints and Sinners literary festival in May, will appear with Lily Burana and Sarah Vowell to talk about the power of the memoir at 1 p.m. Saturday at Muriel's Jackson Square, and discuss anthologies with Sonny Brewer and Carla Kaplan at 4 p.m. Saturday at O'Flaherty's Irish Channel Pub

Straying off the memoir path a bit, Ponchatoula resident Bev Marshall discusses her novel, Right as Rain, with David Winkler-Schmit. Marshall will present a master class on the publishing process at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Historic New Orleans Collection, and join Silas House and Robert Morgan for a discussion on writing from different perspectives at 1 p.m. Friday at Le Petit.

Elsewhere in this issue, look for previews of related theater works The Glass Menagerie and The Glass Mendacity, as well as information on an appearance by Sarah Vowell at NOCCA/Riverfront. For more information, visit the official Web site at www.tennesseewilliams.net. 

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