Gutenberg Would Have Been Proud

I swam in books today. Just backstroke and sidestroke; I’ve never been too good at freestyle.

Today was the LA Festival of Books, put on by the Los Angeles Times. Each year, over 100,000 people show up at UCLA to celebrate books – fiction, nonfiction, picture books, cookbooks, what have you. Panels of authors discuss their work and their process, tents brim with used books, stages host readings and interviews and musical performances.

I know some of you think LA is a screen-only city, low on culture and literacy, and I’m not going to lie- this place really is overflowing with large breasts and tiny dogs. But for all that, LA does have books and art and people who care enough to talk about them. In fact, a panelist and publisher from Brooklyn said that New York would never draw such large crowds to discuss books. He said the literati out there are more insular and snobbish. We Angelenos share. Of course, we also enjoy better weather while we’re doing it.

In an age of shrinking books sales, withering local bookstores, and library cutbacks, reading has only become more solitary with time. (Oprah and her ladies excepted.) We watch movies and television in groups, small or large. We throw Superbowl and Oscar parties, get sloshed and eat pizza. It’s a great time. But a party in honor of paper and ink: that’s something pretty special.

I think we should all take a moment to recognize Gutenberg and his nifty movable type. (Thanks, buddy.) The same for kindergarten teachers and parents who spelled out C-A-T for us a million times. And a holla to LA for occasionally surprising the rest of the country with its smartitude.

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