A Novel Idea: The LA Times 18th Annual Festival of Books

BY: CORTNEY LONG AND SIMONE GULLBERG

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Celebrity sightings, food truck munching, the opportunity to expand your literary repertoire beyond Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and a chance to support CSULB’s very own Professor Charles Harper Webb. What more could any student ask for? Our lives have become a rinse and repeat cycle of an online world. In this not-so-new age of technology, books have become outdated, vintage almost. However, the LA Times18th Annual Festival of Books on April 20 and 21 at the University of Southern California allows you to break the monotony, and rock those bookworm glasses that have been collecting dust in your room. The Festival of Books is a free event that celebrates the love of all things literate. It features exhibits and seminars from prominent authors, storytelling, and poetry-readings. If your pockets are feeling a bit heavy with the free entrance, there are more than 300 exhibitors selling and promoting books and book-related items from the Los Angeles area. The festival has become the largest and most prestigious book festival in the country, attracting more than 150,000 people each year.

The festival attracts all type of book lovers: even celebrities. This year’s Festival of Books will feature timeless Breakfast Club actress MollyRingwald and Comedy Central comedian DemetriMartin.

An even better reason to attend the Festival is to cheer on Professor Webb as he gives a reading of his newest collection of poetry, “What Things Are Made Of.” Webb has been teaching creative writing at Cal State Long Beach for more than 20 years and has participated almost annually in the Festival of Books for the past 10 years. “What Things Are Made Of” debuted last month, and Webb is excited to give its first reading at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 20.

“I think it’s fairly typical of my work, and it’s seriously funny,” Webb says. “I use a lot of humor in my work.”

As a veteran of the Festival, Webb urges students to attend, especially if they have any interest in writing or reading.

“The festival is the place,” he said. “They have really well-known writers and terrific poets, and a bunch of celebrities. I even saw Eric Idle from Monty Python one year.” Even if you aren’t the most avid of readers, don’t throw this Festival on the shelf just yet. Pun intended. The Festival offers much more than just books. Unleash the inner Emeril Lagasse with cooking demonstrations and appearances from famous foodies. Brian Boitano, Olympic gold medalist figure skater, and host of Food Network’s What Will Brian Boitano Make, will be attending, as well as Top Chef’s Susan Fenigerand Antonia Lofaso. The cherry on top? Once again, pun intended. The entire cooking stage will be surrounded by food trucks- an LA staple. There will be food trucks there…need we say more?

For those who fancy themselves more cultural than culinary, this year’s Festival boasts the addition of a Pop & Hiss music stage. All weekend long, the eardrums of attendees will be rocked by local LA bands like Max Lugavere,Dustbowl Revival and Jasper Dixon Review. If in need of intellectual stimulation, head over to the conversation panels where current events and social matters will be discussed. The topics will range anywhere from legalization of marijuana and gun control policy, to sexuality and religion. A must-see is the panel on humor-writing with Twitter legend Kelly Oxford, Chelsea Lately’s Heather McDonald, and NPR and The Moth’sOphira Eisenberg.

This month, forget about your electronics and take a step into the past. Revisit a time where books actually had covers and pages, rather than screens and buttons. No time machine required. The Festival of Books runs from approximately 10 am to 5 pm at USC, on the weekend of April 20 and 21. The metro is running through the USC campus for the first time this year, so without the hefty $10 USC parking fee, there really is no excuse not to go. Leave your car in the LBC, hop on the metro and enjoy a weekend of books. You can even take your phone with you for the mandatory FacebookTwitter and Instagramupdates.