DC at Night

DC at Night

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Return of the Annual National Book Festival

Welcome to this week's Friday Flashback. Each Friday in the Flashback we offer a post about some part of the past and its relationship to DC. Sometimes, we will write a new entry. Others times, we will showcase articles that previously appeared in The Prices Do DC or some other online publications. But no matter who does the writing, you can trust that you will learn something important from the Flashback.



Tomorrow is the National Book Festival. Although it used to take place over 2 days on the National Mall, this year it be held on a single day in the Walter E. Washongton Convnetion Center. Here is a post from last year's event.

There are probably as many reasons to attend the National Book Festival as there are attendees. However, the avid reading enthusiasts who yearly congregate on the National Mall for one of America's largest book celebrations can loosely be arranged in 1 of 3 categories - some come for a particular type of book, others come for a particular author or authors, and still others come to grab the free reading goodies offered, which includes large, brightly-colored book bags (this year orange) to carry those items home.
Margaret Atwood prepares to take the stage
Take Anne Rhome. The 67-year-old Virginia resident could be found Saturday on the 2nd row of chairs in the Fiction and Mystery tent, where she planned to spend the entire 7 hours of the festival, which is sponsored by the Library of Congress.

"I come here to hear the authors talk about both their new books and their older books," Rhome says. "I've only missed 1 (of the 12) festivals. I stay mostly in the fiction tent because that is what I read."

So how come she wasn't in the 1st row? You could blame her late arrival for not getting the closest seats. On this particular Saturday, the book festival started at 10 a.m.with an appearance by Dom DeLillo, one of America's most acclaimed writers. In 2006, New York Times survey of writers and literary experts chose his novel Underworld as the 2nd best novel of the past 25 years. When Rhome arrived shortly after 9 a.m., she was told the front row had been filled by 8:45.


Rhome says she never tires of the DC festival, which allows her to continue her life-long passion with books and reading. "When I was young, I loved being in the library and being surrounded by books," she said.

Then there are readers like Carolyn Hoy, a high school teacher who had traveled with 2 friends from Lancaster, Pa. for Saturday's programs. There were 2 reasons she was there - one was named Margaret Atwood; the other was Daniel Pink. In fact, we encountered Hoy as she was taking pictures of Pink, who was minutes away from delivering an engaging talk on his newest book entitled To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others.

"Don't you just love him," Hoy said as she snapped away. As a teacher, she readily agrees with Pink's contention that everyone is a salesmen and therefore should know the best ways to persuade and convince.
"I use all of his books in class," says Hoy, who teaches seminar classes to mixed groups of gifted students in grades 9 through 12. She said Pink's works are ideal for learning concepts of creativity and motivation.

As Pink prowled the stage animatedly distributing the wisdom he had gathered from social scientists around America, you could spot Hoy furiously scribbling down ideas to take back to her classroom.


In the final category you would be hard pressed to find a better example than my wife (and doting grandmother of our 2 grandkids, 5-and-half-year-old Audrey and 4-year-old Owen). Now while Judy did plan to see some authors (her 2 choices for this Saturday were Linda Ronstadt with her new memoir Simple Dreams and Christina Garcia, a Cuban-American writer whose latest book is a darkly comic novel featuring a fictionalized Fidel Castro entitledKing of Cuba) that wasn't her main reason for her attendance.

For much of the day, you could find Judy prowling the tents, filling her bright orange book bag with age-appropriate, reading-related materials for Audrey (who is already reading on her own) and Owen (who still prefers to be read to).

"I love the festival because they have a lot of fun, free, educational things that you can take home for your children or your grandchildren," Judy said. "And a lot of the items you couldn't even buy in stores if you wanted to".

My wife says she can't wait to bring Audrey and Owen (who currently live in suburban Atlanta) to the festival. I support that idea. Maybe then they can carry their own bags. But until that day comes, that is a task for Grandpop. Thank goodness I love books and my grandkids and I look good in orange.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
To book lovers, the National Book Festival is like a rock festival. But like the New Orleans Fest or Bonaroo, the multiple-stages setup prompts some tough decisions. Here are some I faced this past weekend ... Linda Ronstadt or Dom DeLillio? .... James McBride or Daniel Pink? ...Terry McMillan or Benjamin Percy? Alfredo Corchado or Joyce Carol Oates? Taylor Branch (whom I have seen before) or lunch? What a wonderful problem to have.

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