Festival of Books again binds a city together

Is it any surprise that on a warm spring day, thousands of Southern Californians went in search of a good book — and a chance to meet the person who wrote it?

Not to Susan Burton, a retired school librarian from Fontana, who was among the crowds that converged Sunday morning on the USC campus for the final day of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.


“I think this is a fabulous place to be,” she said as she stood in line with a friend to hear a discussion about crime writing with former L.A. Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark and crime novelist T. Jefferson Parker. “But then again, I’m a bookaholic.”

Organizers had yet to make a final tally, but they estimate that the 18th annual event drew about 150,000 visitors, a slight increase over last year’s festival. The numbers were a good sign for the event, considering it had to compete for patrons with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the increasingly popular bicycle ride known as CicLAvia.


Some visitors to the book festival said that after the Boston Marathon bombing last week, they were hesitant about attending an event with large crowds. Security at USC was high Sunday, with police and security guards patrolling on foot, bicycle and horseback.

But other book lovers said they would not let fear keep them away.

“You can’t live your life always fearing,” said Janice Jones, a retired construction company worker from San Diego, who listened with a friend as comedian Demitri Martin stood on an outdoor stage, talking about how he began his career.

Although books were the heart of the festival, Sunday’s schedule was ripe with panel discussions, performances and demonstrations about food, music, filmmaking and even knot tying.


Actress Valerie Bertinelli, author of “One Dish at a Time,” shared the stage with Times food editor Russ Parsons to talk about growing up in an Italian American home, watching her mother and aunt cook gnocchi, cappelletti and meatballs.

“You can do so many things with a great sauce,” she said as people in the audience feasted on noodles, curry chicken, frozen yogurt and brownies.

Nearby, lunchtime crowds formed outside about half a dozen food trucks, serving Indian, Cuban, Mexican and French cuisine.

In the morning, a potpourri of food smells mixed with the blare of tubas and bass drums from the Trojan Marching Band. Later, it was the sound of jazz from USC graduate Raquel Rodriguez, who performed before a crowd of nodding, swaying music fans.


For Steve Klevatt, a special-effects artist from Los Angeles, the highlight of his day was a presentation by Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who spoke Sunday morning before a standing-room-only crowd about his book on knot tying, titled “Why Knot?”

“This is a great environment,” Klevatt said. “It’s great that so many people came out on such a nice day.”

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