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.
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.
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.
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."
articles convey but a few chapters of the lively saga that brought
together writers and booklovers.
local history has its highs and lows
By Dan Heuchert
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.
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.
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.
third scheduled panelist, Agnes Cross White, author of a history
of local African Americans, was unable to attend.
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.
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.
the story of a little village," Barefoot said.
has also unearthed many long-lost photos to illustrate his book,
rescuing many from attics and forgotten family collections, he
Leffler suggested that faded memories and even photos can be deceptive
-- "Memory is different from history,² 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.
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.
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
included both the legend and her research findings in the final
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.
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.
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."
Changing face of book publishing
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