2011 L.A. Times Festival of Books schedule is announced: Patti Smith meets Dave Eggers


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It’s probably safe to assume that the names Patti Smith and Dave Eggers are not uttered in the same sentence with any degree of regularity. But their appearance -- together -- at the upcoming Los Angeles Times Festival of Books could change all that.

The rocker (whose “Just Kids” recently won the National Book Award for nonfiction) and the literary hipster (whose book “Zeitoun” won last year’s Los Angeles Times Book Prize for current interest ) will appear together onstage as the book festival, after 15 years at UCLA, moves to USC April 30-May 1.


More than 400 authors will participate in upward of 100 readings, panel discussions and, for a few -- such as comedian Patton Oswalt (“Zombie Spaceship Wasteland”) -- solo stage appearances. Admission to the festival is free, but tickets are required for discussions and lectures. They will be available, for a $1 service fee, beginning April 24 at

The Smith-Eggers event is “a rare opportunity to have a conversation with two cultural iconoclasts from different generations talking about why art is important, why creativity matters and how music and literature ennoble our lives,” said L.A. Times book critic David L. Ulin, who will be interviewing both artists.

Those who sit in on that discussion, however, won’t be able to hear conservative Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, who will be interviewed the same time (12:30 p.m. April 30). The schedule of events will be posted online Monday morning.

You might be tempted to indulge with French Laundry chef Thomas Keller (“Ad Hoc at Home”) -– especially if you’d followed the advice of workout guru Jillian Michaels (“Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life”).

Enjoy some “Stink” with children’s book author Megan McDonald or find out how journalists dig up dirt with L.A. Times reporters who have covered the news in the city of Bell. See Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Edmund Morris (“Colonel Roosevelt”) and mother-daughter bestsellers Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark. Many of the panels will be held in buildings along Trousdale Parkway, which runs through the center of campus. “I think this move to SC is going to expand the demographic of who comes to the festival,” said journalist Karen Grigsby Bates, who is scheduled to moderate two panels. “You’re going to get people who looked at UCLA as too far west, and you can get there on public transportation.”

The festival comes as the publishing industry is finding its footing after drastic cutbacks during the recent recession. According to the Assn. of American Publishers, in 2010, overall book sales totaled more than $11.6 billion, a 3.6% increase over 2009. In that same period, e-book sales, which are still a small portion of the industry, grew 164%.


Of course, some people are sticking to the traditional format, including magician Ricky Jay, whose book “Celebrations of Curious Characters’ will be published next month and who will appear at the festival on April 30. “I have a recording of a magician from the ‘20s, but it is difficult to get the wax cylinder phonograph to play it. My books dating to the 16th century, however, are still readable in their original form using my original equipment.”

When authors tour to promote their books, they generally go solo. Festivals like this one -- major ones take place in Miami, Brooklyn and Texas, but the L.A. Times’ is the largest -- provide an opportunity for them to sometimes reach readers serendipitously.

“People might come out because of one of the other authors on your panel or the general topic,” says the New York-based science writer Seth Mnookin (“The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear”), who will be making his first appearance in at the festival -- and his first visit to L.A. -- to talk about this book. “Right now, I’m looking forward to it not being 35 degrees and raining.”


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-- Carolyn Kellogg