It's probably safe to assume that the names Patti Smith and Dave Eggers are not uttered in the same sentence with any degree of regularity. But their appearance at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books could change all that.
The rocker (whose "Just Kids" recently won the National Book Award for nonfiction) and the literary hipster (whose book "Zeitoun" won last year's Los Angeles Times Book Prize for current interest ) will appear together onstage at this year's book festival, which after 15 years at UCLA is moving to USC. The festival is scheduled for April 30 and May 1.
More than 400 authors will participate in upward of 100 readings, panel discussions and, for a few — such as comedian Patton Oswalt ("Zombie Spaceship Wasteland") — solo stage appearances. Admission to the festival is free, but tickets are required for discussions and lectures. They will be available, for a $1 service fee, on April 24 at latimesfesitvalofbooks.com.
The Smith-Eggers event is "a rare opportunity to have a conversation with two cultural iconoclasts from different generations talking about why art is important, why creativity matters and how music and literature ennoble our lives," said L.A. Times book critic David L. Ulin, who will be interviewing both artists.
The schedule of events is slated to be posted online Monday morning. Among the authors scheduled to appear are Michael Connelly, T.C. Boyle, Edmund Morris, Walter Mosley, Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Weiner, Dan Clowes, Edmund Morris, and Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark. Times columnist Steve Lopez is scheduled to be in conversation with Father Greg Boyle. The festival lineup also includes French Laundry chef Thomas Keller, workout guru Jillian Michaels, Ted Danson, T. Jefferson Parker, Andrew Breitbart, Sebastian Junger and Carolyn See.
The festival comes as the publishing industry is finding its footing after drastic cutbacks during the recent recession. According to the Assn. of American Publishers, in 2010, overall book sales totaled more than $11.6 billion, a 3.6% increase over 2009. In that same time period, e-book sales, which are still a small portion of the industry, grew 164%.
Of course, some people are sticking to the traditional format, including magician Ricky Jay, whose book "Celebrations of Curious Characters" will be published next month and who will appear at the festival on April 30. "I have a recording of a magician from the '20s, but it is difficult to get the wax cylinder phonograph to play it. My books dating to the 16th century, however, are still readable in their original form using my original equipment."
When authors tour to promote their books, they generally go solo. Festivals like this one — major ones take place in Miami, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Texas, but The Times' is the largest — provide an opportunity for them to sometimes reach readers serendipitously.
"People might come out because of one of the other authors on your panel or the general topic," says the New York-based science writer Seth Mnookin ("The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear"), who will be making his first appearance at the festival — and his first visit to L.A. — to talk about this book. "Right now, I'm looking forward to it not being 35 degrees and raining."