Read On, SC! The L.A. Times Festival of Books

I was ecstatic to learn last fall that the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will be moving from UCLA to my alma mater, USC – for many reasons.

Aside from my collegiate allegiance, it’s a lot closer, parking is easier to find (my entire time at USC I never needed to buy a parking pass- I have my secrets), and I can easily take the bus down if I had to. But most of all, it’s centrally located, more accessible and will inevitably attract a more diverse crowd than the upscale Westsider elite that dominated the Festival in its Westwood days (Westwood traffic sucks, BTW).  I only attended the Festival once before in 2002, and UCLA’s distance and relative lack of accessibility kept me from coming back. So this time around, I wanted to make a statement and show my support for the new venue. UCLA’s loss is USC’s gain!

To quote a popular song from my college years, "Isn't it ironic?"

Because of my busy weekend, I had but two hours out of the entire weekend to enjoy the Festival. Fortunately, I knew the USC campus well enough that I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. Most of the booths took up the main Trousdale Parkway north-south walkway through the campus, with other areas at the Alumni Park and in the grassy area near Leavey Library. I was able to traverse this area easily.

Objectively speaking, I did hear a few complaints about programming glitches (I didn’t have the time to attend much of the panels and talks) and lack of food booths, but many people liked the setup better, which lacked UCLA’s hilly, sprawling topography. And the weather? Beautiful.

I ended up buying just two books, one, Los Angeles Noir, from Akashic Books, an anthology of short stories based on various neighborhoods (LA Times columnist Hector Tobar contributed one entry based in East Hollywood — yes I bought the book on that notion alone; that and it was discounted at $10) and Jessica Hagedorn’s Toxicology from the Philippine Expressions Bookshop booth as a late birthday present for my sister, who’s returning home tonight from the Philippines.

Children's Stage entertainer Hip Hop Harry. Go Harry! Go Harry!

There was the popular $5 Or Less Bookstore tent, which was too chaotic for me to check out, but I did have time to check out the Target Children’s Stage, who had the kiddie rap act Hip Hop Harry entertaining kids and their parents, which was pretty, shall I say, dope.

The Festival also got props for not shutting down early on the last day like many other events are prone to do. The day ended at 5 p.m., but I was able to squeeze in an extra 15 minutes. Thank you, Festival of Books.

Next year should be even better; the long-awaited Metro Exposition Line will take me there. With a station just a few feet from the campus (the recently-completed station standing there, as if to tease), that should really make USC the ideal venue for this event (Flashes “victory” sign).

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