Review of The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Imagine a crowd of 115,000 people circling through brilliant white tents amidst the University of California Los Angeles' classical architecture-like a fairy tale out of some forgotten time.

Aptly named, the 10th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books took place on Saturday and Sunday, drawing record crowds and reminding us what a festival is all about.

To start off the weekend the Santa Monica Review, a yearly publication, held a reading of selected short stories from local authors writing for the publication. The founding editor, SMC professor, poet and novelist James Krusoe also presented his work. The event happened last Friday at Beyond Baroque, one of L.A.'s leading literary centers.

"The closest thing I can describe Jim's work as, the content is not similar, but his style reminds of Harlan Ellison," said Stephen Ross, a friend of Krusoe.

Beyond Baroque, located charmingly in the old Court House in Venice, has been a solid institution for 30 years. It includes an archive containing the poetry of Charles Bukowski, and they have a small press that published poetry in the past, but mostly publishes fiction today.

"Ariane [Simard] started with a beautiful description, an interesting perspective of reality, very eloquent," said Vanessa Garber, an attendee at the Beyond Baroque event. "The sort of breadth and strength of the writing in the journal is the type to be taken seriously."

Composed of various authors from around the nation, the works represent a stunning portrait of American life.

"It's a cause advancing literacy and literary arts for college," Adam Tonkovich, the editor of the review, said as he passed out copies during the book festival. "Our gift to the community. On one side we have the course catalog information for SMC and in a few minutes the counselors will be here, telling people how to enroll and answering questions, and the other side is free copies, for one weekend only during the festival, that's meant to engage people in our terrific journal."

The booth at the festival, in conjunction with SMC, was situated among many other establishments in support of literature of all types, including books turned into film.

HBO, a contributing sponsor of the event, had a booth showcasing their newest TV miniseries drama from HBO Films, "Empire Falls." Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Richard Russo, it stars such big name actors as Robin Wright Penn, Helen Hunt, Ed Harris and Paul Newman, who is also the executive producer.

The New York Times Book Review cites Russo as "one of the best new novelists around." Shot on location in Maine, the show will premiere May 28 and 29 on HBO.

Ray Bradbury sat through the majority of the event at the Vagabond Books tent as he signed copies of his own novels and his new biography "The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury," by Sam Weller. It was something for everybody to remember as a line stretched down the sidewalk, staying the whole time he was present.

The festival also included poetry stages, the L.A. Times stage, with speakers such as Walter Mosley and Maria Shriver, and other book signings from established and up-and-coming authors and artists.

"The majority of my time was occupied by my book signing at the Hennessey & Ingalls booth on Saturday, but the few moments I did get to venture, I was thoroughly impressed by the popularity and turn -out of people attending the festival," said Shepard Fairey, who signed copies of his book with the Obey face print on the cover, "Post No Bills."

The free pen that the organization Why Islam? (www.whyislam.org) gave out included the feature of a retractable device that shot a metal cap off the push-button end like a missile.

There was also a children's area with two stages surrounded by children's book publishers and activities for children. Walking by the singing and dancing on the stages, the kids were captivated, but the whole event stood as a place where children could play. Many children just rolled down UCLA's gigantic grass hills in front of Kerckhoff Hall and Moore Hall.

"It was a nice event. It was a little crowded, lots of kids, a social, get-out-of-the-house and enjoy the nice day thing," said Monica Giovannetti, a UCLA student.

The event with Reading by 9, a multi-year campaign aimed at helping Southern California kindergarten through third-grade students read, supports raising California residents' reading scores, some of the lowest in the nation.

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