there’s something for everyone*

* except fans of BOOKS.

On the back page of today’s LA Times Business Section, there’s an ad for the upcoming (and generally awesome) Festival of Books. It features an illustration of a bunch of books flying overhead as some kids try to reach up to grab them (and fail, ha ha). The main line is “Don’t let this festival fly by,” which seems like a fairly effective reminder for the “damn, I missed it again this year” crowd.

The line below is “There’s something for everyone.”

Well, almost everyone.

Pictures running down the right side, from top to bottom:

  • Julie Andrews, circa 1901.
  • Dylan & Cole Sprouse, twin brothers best known for playing twin brothers named Zack & Cody.*
  • Maria Shriver, first lady of California, Starbucks frequenter.
  • DaShaun Morris. “In the darkness of the streets, my childhood is murdered…. I am reborn — a gangster.”*
  • Padma Lakshmi, hawt, often scantily clad, ex-wife of Sir Salman. Author of memoir cookbook Easy Exotic (aww, snap!), among others.
  • Ben Barnes. Handsome actor. Prince Caspian.*
  • * required googling on my part…I had no idea.

    Something for everyone?

    Um, except maybe fans of BOOKS.

    I get it. You’ve got to draw people in, appeal to the general public. And celebrities are good for that. A headshot strip of (to pick some random examples) Marvin Bell, Patricia Hampl, Jay Parini, and Tod Goldberg (gotcha!), might warrant a second look in Poets & Writers, but in the Business Section would be greeted by a 1/3 second WTF on the way to the big blue bin.

    So, you might ask, what’s my damage umbrage?

    It’s the copy. 450 + authors, it says, and then goes on to list:

  • Julie Andrews: Yeah, I saw her picture already.
  • Ben Barnes: Ditto.
  • Mike Farrell: B.J. Hunnicut from M*A*S*H*, political activist.
  • Tommy Lasorda: Baseball, spaghetti sauce, Slim Fast, tirades.
  • Padma Lakshmi: Pictured (right).
  • Kenny Mayne: I am sorry, but who? Oh, this guy. Wait, who?*
  • Maria Shriver: Pictured (right).
  • Aly & AJ: Authors? WTF????*
  • and more: I hope so!
  • * again, thank you google.

    There is exactly one name on this page best known for writing books: Ray Bradbury. Basically the most popular American writer of sci-fi / speculative fiction still alive. He’s a huge draw. The line outside his reading snakes all over creation. If there has to be only one “author-author” named in the ad, Ray Bradbury’s a good choice.

    But why is there only one “author-author”?

    Wouldn’t FANS OF BOOKS want to see who else is going to be there? Some more names from the website’s author list: TC Boyle, Gore Vidal, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gay Talese, Walter Mosley, Aimee Bender, Richard Price, Tobias Wolff, Robert Pinsky, Jane Smiley, Sherman Alexie.

    For the record, I’ve got no beef with the FoB’s catholicity. I’m moderating a panel on Surf Culture, after all. The ad is weak not because it tries to target a bunch of different niches, or even because it features “celebrities” for whom books are simply part of a merchandising/marketing package.

    It is weak because it ignores the FoB’s ostensible raison d’etre: the celebration of good writing and good books.

    Or is my head in the clouds on this one?

    One thought on “there’s something for everyone*

    1. No, dead on. I hate it when they dumb down those things. I’d go just for Tobias Wolff, but of course they list Bradbury. And given most of the other people listed for public attraction, their target audience probably won’t even know who Bradbury is. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

      I wish Maine had a festival.

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