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September 2011

the latest from
Suite 603


September 19, 2011


2011-2012 BOOK FESTIVALS, clockwise from top left: South Carolina, Virginia, Nebraska, Maine, South Dakota, Nevada, Maryland, Tennessee, National Book Festival, Utah, Montana, Wisconsin, West Virginia
It's the fall book festival season
And more books
The Good Book
The reading device

It's the fall book festival season

The poster of the 2011 Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula
The poster of the 2011 Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula

The 2011-2012 book festival season begins this coming weekend with the Baltimore Book Festival in the Maryland Humanities Council's Baltimore neighborhood of Mount Vernon and the National Book Festival on the National Mall.

The Maryland Humanities Council is bringing Sherman Alexie to Baltimore. He is the author of the The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, this year's book for One Maryland, One Book. The theme of this year's National Book Festival is "Celebrate the Joys of Reading Aloud" and the poster features President Abraham Lincoln reading to the American people. Representatives from ten state humanities councils will be on the Mall.

October, National Arts & Humanities Month, will see book festivals in Utah (all month, all around the state), Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and West Virginia. The Vegas Valley Book Festival is the first weekend in November. After that, it's a long wait to March and the festivals in Virginia and Maine, and then to May for the South Carolina Book Festival.

Humanities Tennessee's Southern Festival of Books will feature Nashville native Ann Patchett whose book, State of Wonder, was published this year. The Wisconsin Book Festival's benefit speaker this year is humorist David Sedaris who will be in Madison October 28. In partnership with the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium, attendees with valid Wisconsin library cards will be able to download 15 books by featured 2011 festival authors directly to their e-Book readers or MP3 players. West Virginia University and Los Angeles Lakers basketball legend Jerry West will participate in an on-stage interview at the West Virginia Book Festival. Afterwards he will sign copies of his just-published autobiography.

The complete list of state humanities council book festivals, with links to their websites, is on the Federal/State Partnership website at


And more books

01 am"
Humanities Washington's BEDTIME STORIES fundraising event will feature Northwest authors writing short stories on the theme "12:01 am"

State humanities councils have books at the center of many other activities this fall. Here is a sampling of what you could experience on a nationwide book expedition this fall.

Humanities Washington's annual fundraiser is "Bedtime Stories," held on September 30. The emcee this year will be Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. Working with the theme "12:01 am," the featured authors will each write a short story. Last year Humanities Washington published Night Lights, a collection of 22 stories and essays read at Bedtime Stories events from 1999-2009. Contributing writers include Tom Robbins, August Wilson, Karen Fisher, Charles Johnson, Mary Guterson and others.

Public libraries will be the recipients of a grant program of the California Council for the Humanities. The California Reads Public Library Grants award up to $15,000 to support programming on the topic "Searching for Democracy." Webinars, both recorded and live, are available to give advice to potential applicants. To date, CCH has made awards to 15 library jurisdictions.

Historian James McPherson and author/reporter/humorist Calvin Trillin will both speak at Idaho Humanities Council events in October. Pulitzer Prize winning Civil War historian McPherson will speak in Coeur d'Alene on October 6 and Calvin Trillin, long-time New Yorker writer and "happy eater," will be in Boise on October 21. The New Hampshire Humanities Council hosts author, New York Times columnist, and PBS commentator David Brooks on October 25. This event is already sold out.


The Good Book

The Folger Shakespeare Library's exhibition on the King James Bible, "Manifold Greatness: the Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible," opens September 21st. NEH has provided funding so that a traveling version of this exhibition can be seen at 40 sites in 27 states from 2011 to 2013.

The main exhibition began at the Bodleian Library in Oxford and will be at the Folger in Washington, DC from September 23, 2011 to January 15, 2012. After that it will move to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where it will be on view from February 28 to July 1.

The exhibition website includes videos, comparative English translations, directions for making an early modern ruff (great for kids), and audio of the Apollo 8 astronauts reading from Genesis as they circled the moon for the first time on Christmas Eve 1968. It also includes a section of audio recordings of Handel's Messiah, the libretto of which provides the modern world with its greatest exposure to the language of the King James Bible.

The reading device

A couple of years ago, Humtalk circulated the link to a terrific YouTube video made in Norway, that records the frustrating experience of a scroll-reading medieval monk trying to figure out what the techie is telling him about how to maneuver this new-fangled thing called a book.

In the September 4th New York Times Sunday Book Review, Lev Grossman analyzed the "very important and very weird" evolution of the book that is taking place "right before our eyes. We’re witnessing the bibliographical equivalent of the rapture. If anything we may be lowballing the weirdness of it all."

In "From Scroll to Screen," Grossman considers the change from book to e-Reader to be as revolutionary as the development of the codex was to the scroll. Not underestimating the earth-shaking importance of Gutenberg's invention of movable type, he looks at the scroll to codex to e-Reader movement as a circular one. The invention of the codex, in contrast to the scroll, allowed for non-linear reading—the reader could go back and forth within the text with ease. The e-Reader returns the reader to a linear world.

He notes with irony that we associate the web and things digital with non-linearity, allowing us to hyperlink here and there. Yet the e-Reader makes moving back and forth within a text difficult. "It’s no wonder," he writes, "that the rise of e-reading has revived two words for classical-era reading technologies: scroll and tablet. That’s the kind of reading you do in an e-book."

In the interest of full disclosure, the staff of Federal/State Partnership reads codices and e-Readers. None of us has yet tried a real, honest-to-goodness scroll. We've discovered that War and Peace and The Mysteries of Udolpho are far too complicated for a Kindle, but that most Christopher Buckley books and Alan Bradley's mysteries (starting with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) work very well.

National Endowment for the Humanities
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202.606.8254, main number
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directions to the Federal/State Partnership office

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National Endowment for the Humanities

Federal/State Partnership is the liaison between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the nonprofit network of 56 state and jurisdictional humanities councils