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The Two-day Event On Mount Vernon Place Was Proof That A Good Book Is The Best Of Friends

September 29, 1997|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,SUN STAFF

A is for Applause, Applause. The Baltimore Book Festival was an unqualified hit with the thousands who swarmed Mount Vernon over the weeked. "On Saturday, I was here for 10 hours and I thought I'd be exhausted, but I went home higher than a kite," said Pat Bates of the Howard County Public Library System, who coordinates activities for the newly formed

Maryland Center for the Book.

B is for Bibliophilia or, in some cases, Bibliomania. Whatever one's taste -- new books, old books, genre books, hardcovers, softcovers, collectible books -- it could be sated here.

C is for Cheryl's Chalets. Hey, have you ever heard a more elegant name for portable bathroom facilities? They also were Conveniently located.

D is for Dogs. Technically, pets were not invited to attend the book festival, but several dogs strolled through, including Ghengis and Judas, accompanied by Josh Steinbauer and Carrie Chicos, who were on their way to the grocery store. Judas was one festival goer who has literally devoured a book. ("Love and Garbage," by Ivan Klima. He decreed it digestible, if not as meaty as Milan Kundera's work.)

E is for Edgar Allan Poe, the big draw at the Maryland Humanities Council booth. "Anything that had Poe on it sold," said Donna Barnes, the council's administrative director. However, the F. Scott Fitzgerald T-shirts sold out, and there was much demand for Zora Neale Hurston as well. As for those Virginia types who like to point out that Poe was born there and merely died here -- quoth the Raven, nevermore.

F is for Fried Food. Can't have a festival in Baltimore without it. Fried burgers, hot dogs, sausage, french fries. One festival vendor claims she awoke at 3 a.m. Sunday with the smell of frying meat emanating from her pores.

G is for Gutenberg. No, not Steve, although alert types will remember that parts of "The Bedroom Window" were filmed in Mount Vernon. Johann, of movable type fame. He started it all.

H is for HoCoPoLitSo, the Howard County group (that's the HoCo) that's been bringing poets (OK, we're up to Po now) and authors (Lit) to their Society (So) for more than two decades. The group has a knack for picking winners. Its past speakers have gone on to win the Nobel Prize (Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott), poet laureate status (Mark Strand) and the Tanning Prize (W.S. Merwin).

I is for IQ. Go ahead, admit it. Didn't Baltimore feel smarter this weekend? The City that Reads lived up to its slogan in a big way, attracting tens of thousands. Unofficial tallies put the aggregate IQ of Mount Vernon at 4,127,165.

J is for Just One More. Tote bags and knapsacks proved accommodating indeed, stretched to their limits as festival-goers tried to cram more and more purchases into them. "Nevermore," a few bags cried silently, their seams bursting.

K is for Kids. The festival was a child's garden of activities. Arthur the Aardvark was there, as was Curious George. There was face-painting and a crafts tent. For the kid in all of us, there was Drusilla's Books, where childhood favorites were snatched up. (Did you see the copy of "Eloise in Paris?" Oo-lah-lah, a very rare book indeed.)

L is for Louie's. Who says Baltimore is late to every trend? Louie's was combining good books and good food and, um, interesting service long before anyone in Charm City even knew how to order a skinny decaf latte.

M is for Mushrooms. The surprise hit of the festival. Customers were often 20 deep at this stand, where they could get woodland mushrooms in 'Shroom pie or a serving of oyster fritters.

N is for Nothing compares to seeing a Mark Twain impersonator, scarfing down an onion ring as he waited for Sunday's showers to pass.

O is for Orchestra. Why is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra hanging out at the book festival? "Books on music are a basic part of culture, and this is a wonderful opportunity for us," said Miryam Yardumian, the BSO's music administrator. Meanwhile, there was every type of music to be heard from the stage at the north end. And, although we never saw anyone do the Madison on Madison, we did see a guy merengue with his wife.

P is for Pages. And Paige's. Paige Rose, that is, who along with Kathy Harig runs Mystery Loves Company in Fells Point. They know where all the bodies are buried, and they've been known to indulge an appetite for red herrings.

Q is for Questions. "Where is the Agora Publishing Auditorium?" That was the most frequently asked question, said Randi Hernandez, one of the intrepid volunteers at the festival's information booths. Runners-up included: "Where is the children's section?" and "Where's the food?" Strangest item asked for at the lost and found: Some misplaced french fries.

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