Shots Rang Out
Austin will reflect on its less halcyon days with the Mayor’s Book Club selection, Monday, Monday, Elizabeth Crook’s novel based on the mass shooting at the University of Texas in 1966. The book club’s launch on Tuesday will feature Crook, an Austin resident, who will read a passage from her work. In it, her main character is crossing campus, daydreaming about joining the Peace Corps, when a bullet strikes her. It sets the mood for a gripping tale that Crook was inspired to write in August 2006, after reading “96 Minutes,” an oral history about the Tower shooting written by Texas Monthly’s executive editor, Pamela Colloff, (the title refers to the amount of time Charles Whitman was holed up in the observatory deck). “The questions started coming,” Crook said in an email. “What is it like to plan your life and think you know where you’re headed when you start across a campus in the middle of a sunny day, and then to find yourself hauled off in a different direction, bleeding and wounded, with a different life in front of you. How do you deal with that for the next thirty, forty, fifty years? Is forgiveness really even an issue?”
Bullock Texas State History Museum, May 27, 7 p.m., elizabethcrookbooks.com
In 1932, when farmers in Bethel completed a study course, they decided to celebrate with a big fiddle party. Eventually, this annual event expanded beyond its farming roots and the neighboring town of Athens took it over, calling it the Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion. The festival, considered the oldest of its kind to run continuously year after year, will host its eighty-third affair this Friday and Saturday. In the forties, during the heyday of contest-style fiddling and western swing, attendance grew to 50,000. Now the reunion is more manageable, with a couple of hundred old-time music enthusiasts bringing blankets and chairs to the shade of the trees on the lawn of the Henderson County Courthouse for some of the best fiddling in Texas. A few players are older than the Old Fiddlers Reunion itself, like Jim Chancellor, known as Texas Shorty, who in the forties and fifties played with three titans of Texas fiddling—Bryant Houston, Eck Robertson, and Benny Thomasson. After the Grand Champion is announced, tradition calls for the performers and the audience to file into the street for song and dance.
Henderson County Courthouse, May 30-31, athensfiddlers.com
Love and Pop
Andy Warhol had Campbell’s soup cans, Roy Lichtenstein had thought bubbles, and Robert Indiana, the pop artist whose first American retrospective closes Sunday at the McNay Art Museum, had love. Love, in this case, means the iconic arrangement of the letters “L,” “O,” “V,” and “E,” which Indiana designed, and which, in 1973, the United States Postal Service put on more than 320 million stamps. Indiana’s show, “Beyond Love,” includes more than one hundred paintings, sculpture, and works on paper from public and private collections worldwide. There are also two supplemental exhibits, “Hartley Elegies” and “The Mother of Us All.” The first is a set of ten screen prints that pay homage to Marsden Hartley, the modernist painter, and the second is an assembly of costumes and scene designs for the Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson opera inspired by the life of Susan B. Anthony.
McNay Art Museum, May 23-25, mcnayart.org
The Recording Academy eliminated the polka category from the Grammys in 2009, a substantial blow to the longevity of this traditional Czech music. But the people of Ennis, host to this weekend’s forty-eighth annual National Polka Festival, do not need an award to know their music is worth something. There, polka continues its reign, with thirteen polka bands set to play the festival, which will showcase the natural and lively pairing of accordions with good authentic Czech-style beer and food, like kolaches and sausage.
Various locations, May 23-25, nationalpolkafestival.com
Bike, skate, or walk around the area of downtown Dallas near Klyde Warren Park without feeling like you are going to get clipped by a car during Monday’s Ciclovía, an event founded thirty years ago in Bogotá, Colombia, that encourages city centers to temporarily ban automobiles so that pedestrians can enjoy them in full.
Katy Trail, May 26, 10 a.m., uptownciclovia.org
Rifts in Japan
The Austin novelist Sarah Bird draws on her experience as a self-described military brat stationed with her family in Okinawa, Japan, for Above the East China Sea, a somber tale of imperialism that she will counter with one of the typically off-the-wall, alcohol-fueled publication parties she customarily hosts at her hometown bookstore.
BookPeople, May 29, 7 p.m., sarahbirdbooks.com