The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Eggers’ Staggering Genius and Little Women’s Stupefying Acne

The publishing company Penguin Group reeled me in today at The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books with its “Buy two Penguin books, get a free Penguin tote bag” offer. By the time I realized I don’t need a tote bag, let alone one touting Penguin Group, I was already at their display with FREE emblazoned in my mind. Damn them, playing to Jewish stereotypes and succeeding.

I’m vain, and consequently, I judge books by their covers. (Just “Don’t Judge Books By Their Movies,” as one t-shirt on display in the booth smartly reminded.) Penguin is pushing classics with contemporary covers that are modern and hip. To see the latest batch of books to fall down the rabbit hole:

It’s a smart way to get younger readers to pick up an older book and older readers to pick up a newer version. (Pleased to read in Rolling Stone that Lea Michele from Glee has a Wuthering Heights collection.)  Wasn’t as pleased with the Little Women cover from 2007. I value special edition covers, but this cover misses the essence of the story’s romantic, old-fashioned tone.

More from the Festival: I was privileged to attend a panel featuring Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. For that pretentious, meaningless, brilliant title alone, he has my respect. But more precisely, I am privileged to have a mother gutsy enough to bypass the standby line under the guise of needing to go inside to find a bathroom. Of course she went straight for the auditorium.

What I learned: Eggers, like me, deplores the growing trend toward putting everything on a screen. At the same time, he thinks this is the best time to be in publishing, because of what technology can do in terms of production value. Speaking of covers, check out the books Eggers self-publishes with his company McSweeney’s. They are fantastic.

You’d think I am an ill-disguised PR agent for Eggers. I’ll make just one more plug on his behalf. He created this great nonprofit called 826 Valencia that helps children develop writing skills. The kids’ stories are published; seeing their names in print legitimizes their writer status and gives them the sense that their words are important. I think this is such a worthwhile endeavor and would love to get involved at some point. I got one of the books at the 826 booth today for $5. It was autographed by the kids — too cute.

What Is Love?
By Anthony Vasquez

Girls like to kiss boys in the movies.

They like to watch movies together.

Then they go home to sleep.

In the morning they have

breakfast together.

Finally they get married.


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