A Capitol Venue for Books

This year’s Louisiana Book Festival will be the eighth one held over the past ten years. In 2010 it was cancelled for budget reasons, and in 2005 Hurricane Katrina interfered. Going without this annual daylong biblio-cornucopia feels like skipping Thanksgiving. So I am especially thankful to all who enabled its return in 2011.

Our state’s festival is always held in the chambers and committee rooms—and on the grounds—of the state capitol. Whatever is motivating those who want to Occupy Wall Street let it be for a unifying love of books that we all go occupy the Louisiana State Capitol this October 29.

From the first festival held in 2002, I thought the use of our capitol for this event was inspired. The building is empty that day; it belongs to the citizenry, after all; and most people, like me, perhaps go inside the capitol only when accompanying tourists from out of town. What more apt way or place to enjoy and celebrate literacy, knowledge, books, free press and speech—the fruits of liberty in our democratic republic—than assembled in our capitol? With its Art Deco details, it is an especially beautiful edifice to occupy.

A survey of the book festivals of some southern brethren reveals Texas also using its capitol building for a two-day event; Alabama’s and South Carolina’s festivals taking place downtown, though still in the capital city; and the Arkansas Literary Festival spreading out over a week’s time at a number of places near the main library in Little Rock, the capital. Georgia moves the location of its literary festival to a different town each year, which is also a capital idea. Permanency of place for the Louisiana Book Festival, though, seems best, establishing a firm sense of tradition, so valued in our particular culture.

Next spring will mark the two-hundredth birthday of the State of Louisiana and the eightieth birthday of the state capitol. This fall we can get a jump start on celebrating both by celebrating the return of the Louisiana Book Festival, an event I hope is here to stay.

Read more about LSU Press’s participation in the 2011 Louisiana Book Festival.