WITH dignitaries including saxophonist Wayne Shorter and Ray Bradbury, and displays ranging from publishers' new books to the history of the low-rider, the Guadalajara International Book Festival -- dedicated this year to the literature and culture of Los Angeles -- has been quite packed already. I'm going to try to offer a few snapshots of Tuesday's festival -- hoping to get time for a second post on last eve's wild night.
The afternoon included a typically elegiac, mandarin speech by former LATimes book editor Steve Wasserman on the future of publishing. We've entered what he calls "an ultimate stage in the democratization of knowledge."
It's also, he said, a time when digital technology, conglomeration, the collapse of bookstores, independent and otherwise, "renders serious reading increasingly irrelevant." He fears a "hollowing out" of the culture of sustained argument that makes for an informed citizen.
Literary people, Steve feared, will become "the party of the past." He compared the situation in the U.S. to Europe and especially Germany, where state controls (forbidding price-slashing) kept an indie bookstore culture thriving even in bad economic times.
He offered two contrasting phrases. First, Philip Roth's prediction that the novel will go the way of Latin, known only to a small elite. And second, Auden's line, "It is always a danger for the present to write history in the future tense."
I'm a former LA Times arts and culture writer, sometime New York Times, GQ and Salon contributor, the co-editor of "The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles," and an enthusiast of film, wine, indie rock, retro culture, archtop guitars and California history.