March 31-April 6, 2000
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Arata shares experiences as Fulbright in India
Fulbright fellow catches C-ville fever
Virginia Festival of the Book
After Hours - Esau's stories pick up where Jane Austen's left off
Sabbatical fellowships offered
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Planning the community's future
Notable - awards and achievements of faculty and staff
The Paul Dresher Ensemble—fresh

Virginia Festival of the Book
With almost 200 programs and 300 authors of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children's literature, as well as publishing professionals, this year's Virginia Festival of the Book, held March 22 through 26, addressed the written word from idea to print.

Events were well-attended and many overflowing, according to festival organizers at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The luncheon featuring Steve and Cokie Roberts was sold out. (Although, as it turned out, Cokie didn't make it. She had to go to Israel to interview Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.) Other highlights included readings by award-winning writers Reynolds Price, Charles Wright, Rita Dove and Nikki Giovanni.

"I've had wonderful reports from writers and attendees," said Robert Vaughan, director of the foundation. "The writing community in this town has been so generous" in helping plan programs and participating in the book festival.

"I think the event is well-established and expected. People come back because they know they'll enjoy it and learn something," he said. "We've managed to keep the focus on the educational aspects of reading and writing."

The following articles convey but a few chapters of the lively saga that brought together writers and booklovers.

Writing local history has its highs and lows

By Dan Heuchert

When writing local history, one's surroundings can be sources of inspiration -- and consternation, according to two Charlottesville writers who spoke at a Virginia Festival of the Book event.

Susan Tyler Hitchcock, who recently authored a pictorial history of the University, and Coy Barefoot, who is wrapping up a forthcoming book on the history of the Corner, spoke March 23 in City Council chambers as part of a panel discussion called "Our Town." The discussion was moderated by Phyllis Leffler, director of U.Va.'s Institute for Public History, who has written a pamphlet on the history of Jews in Charlottesville and is in the early stages of a book on women at the University.

Ralph Nader
Stephanie Gross

Nader opens book festival, stumps on Grounds

Author and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, a presidential nominee for the Green Party, participated in the opening celebration of the sixth annual Virginia Festival of the Book March 23. He spoke on democracy and reading. Later that day, he met with U.Va. students and delivered a stump speech in Wilson Hall. His afternoon talk was sponsored by the student magazine, Critical Mass, Campaign Green Vote, and the Central Virginia Greens.

A third scheduled panelist, Agnes Cross White, author of a history of local African Americans, was unable to attend.

Barefoot said he was inspired by an incident that happened when he was tending bar at The Virginian early one morning in November 1994. It was 1:30, almost time for last call, when an old man came in and ordered a beer. The man sipped it slowly as Barefoot prepared to close the establishment, until he was the last remaining customer.

"He leans over his beer and says, 'You know, I got drunk in here in 1929,'" Barefoot recalled.

Barefoot wrote down the man's story, and similar stories subsequently told by other customers, and soon felt he had the kernel of something. He began seeking out oral histories, and has collected more than 100 of them, he said. They go well beyond bar life to include residents, employees, merchants, students and faculty who have passed through the Corner since.

"It's the story of a little village," Barefoot said.

He has also unearthed many long-lost photos to illustrate his book, rescuing many from attics and forgotten family collections, he said.

Leffler suggested that faded memories and even photos can be deceptive -- "Memory is different from history, she said -- and asked how he handled their presentation.

"I've been in many homes, many living rooms. And in that home, memory is history," Barefoot said. When writing, he did not seek to resolve the conflicts between different stories, but he did seek to honor them as authentic viewpoints.

Likewise, Hitchcock sought to sort out some of the myths and realities in the University's oral tradition. One particular example was the story of the birth of the Honor System, which, legend has it, came in response to the murder of a professor on the Lawn.

"That never really made sense to me," she said. She did a little more digging, and found that the traditional pledge affixed to papers and examinations came two years after the murder, begun by faculty members in response to rampant cheating. Another precursor of the Honor System came from the practice of requiring those students arrested downtown for rowdiness to be paired with another student, who would henceforth have to vouch for the offender's character off-Grounds.

Hitchcock included both the legend and her research findings in the final product.

The nature of her book, commissioned by the University Bookstore and the University Press of Virginia as a coffee-table volume, necessitated a bit of compromise between a scholarly academic approach and loving celebration of the University, she said.

It was frustrating, she said, noting that she would have liked to include more material on the history of minorities and women at the University, for example. She also was working on a tight deadline, writing the book in just 18 months in order to have it ready for the Christmas season.

"There was a lot of back and forth -- 'try this, try that, why did you write this, how dare you write that,'" Hitchcock said. "Much more than I thought there would be. ... The closer I got to the present day, the harder it was to satisfy everybody."

The Changing face of book publishing

Book groups: add this to your list


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