Monday, September 28, 2009

My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors

The less short of the short people wanted in the most desperate way to go to the National Book Fair this weekend in D.C. So, standing out in rain, we went to hear talks and readings by some of her favorite authors. We saw Kate DiCamillo who wrote The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. We saw Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson Series. Despite the weather, the place was packed.

What surprised me was the reception the authors got from the assembled pre-teen crowd -- equal parts boys and girls. I wouldn't say rock stars, but definitely ball players. They were heroes to these kids in the same way big league shortstops are to others. It made me happy. There is clearly a reading culture among at least a certain slice of kids today in which they inhabit the same imaginary worlds.

Part of it is driven by marketing, of course, but the fact is that there is a market for interesting, thoughtful, clever books above the Dr. Seuss level. And there are a bunch of very talented authors putting out good stuff. No doubt the Harry Potter phenomenon went a long way towards cementing this demographic in the mind of publishers, but the ramifications of it are what interest me. I wonder if, despite all the hand wringing about tweets and blogs, we will be seeing a resurgence in American letters in a generation or so.