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Arts and Entertainment

Bring on the Bibliophilia: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Is Back!

Photo by Genevieve via Flickr.
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Literary evangelists of Los Angeles, let the countdown begin. April has officially arrived, which means our city’s most cherished annual literary extravaganza, The 17th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, is only a few weeks away (April 21-22, to be exact). The festival, which was once a time-honored UCLA tradition, jumped campuses last year to USC. And while the change was a bit jarring for some, the lineup was stellar and literature lit up downtown LA for a truly memorable—and seriously stimulating—weekend. True to form, this year promises even more authors, book-signings, insightful presentations, and a chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s finest ink-slingers.

Among the assemblage of literary greats, you’ll find LATFOB favorites like T.C. Boyle, Steve Erickson, Janet Fitch, Carole Muske-Dukes, Dan Fante, and David Ulin. And there are plenty of new speakers on the scene, including Rodney King, Michael Ian Black, Etgar Keret, Amelia Gray, John Cusack, Mary Otis, and Tori Spelling (seriously). As always, there are tons of festivities planned for every age group, with designated stages for poetry, children, young adults, cooking, and more.

So how exactly did this local literary festival blossom from a small, but dedicated celebration of the written world, to one of the most venerable book festivals in the country? Sponsored by our city’s 183-year-old flagship newspaper, the Los Angeles Times started the festival in 1996 as a way for our erroneously dubbed ‘illiterate city’ to embrace the written word. The event aimed to foster a medley of genres and literary topics, from popular titles to experimental fiction, to pop-culture novels and poetry chapbooks. The result has been an ongoing commitment to literacy promotion in Los Angeles—whether by showcasing local vendors like Skylight Books and BookSoup, or bringing to light local nonprofit efforts, like LA’s Write Girl and 826LA. Over the years, LATFOB has garnered some of the greatest legends in literature, pop culture, music, comedy and film to grace its many stages and panels.

In less than two decades, the annual expected turnout at LATFOB has peaked at over 150,000 visitors over the course of two days, and features literally hundreds of authors, performers, and speakers (just check out this year’s roster). The vendors at LATFOB seem to grow exponentially each year, effecting endless corridors of booths for large publishers and small presses, literary journals, bookstores, literary nonprofits, and vendors of wonderfully random bibliophilia.

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But perhaps most importantly of all, The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has become a testament to our city’s creative prowess and intellectual passion. While living under the guise of “Hollywood” tends to provoke charges of star-struck naivety and a shallow persuasion, the LATFOB illustrates a collective sentiment that proves quite the opposite. Attracting nearly a quarter of a million people, our city’s prized literary event is one of the most popular local events of the year. And that should hardly come as a surprise; our city is one vested in the art of innovation, imagination, storytelling, and yes—of course—books.

Stay tuned for a comprehensive guide to this year’s event, including logistical info and panel recommendations. For more information, visit the LA Times Festival of Books website.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
April 21-22, 2012 @ USC
Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. Admission is free. There is a service charge for panel tickets.

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