Thousands of people braved the high-but-not-Coachella-high temperatures on Saturday to attend Day 1 of the 2008 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. As a first-time attendee, I was struck not only by the size of the crowd and the hundreds of exhibitor booths, but also how well-organized and (mostly) civilized everything was.
I gained an insider’s perspective of L.A.’s book-loving throng during a volunteer stint at the IWOSC booth, representing one of Southern California’s leading organizations of independent writers. A few yards away from the fans lined up for signings at the Mystery Bookstore booth, many of those who approached our booth had already written books and were looking for advice on getting themselves published, represented, and marketed.
Then I attended the panel discussion ”Current Interest: Right & Left” featuring political pundits Arianna Huffington and Eric Alterman from the Left, and David Frum and Dan Schnur representing the Right. The huge crowd packing Royce Hall anticipated a spirited discussion, and was not disappointed. In fact, the audience was an active participant, loudly applauding Huffington as she attacked the mainstream media for adopting Right Wing language when framing Democratic debate questions, and then laughing at Frum and Shnur when the two claimed that George Bush has made us safer. The crowd reaction caused Schnur to quip:
“After the panel David Frum and I will be meeting with all of those in the audience who agree with our point of view – in my car.”
The first day of the Book Festival was a triumph for books, language, and, apparently, thought.