A many-splendored thing

Book Festival: Three-day event at Mount Vernon Place celebrates imagination and literary creativity.

September 28, 2001

FEW THINGS in life are as captivating as books. They fuel imagination, give satisfaction and enable readers to travel to unknown worlds.

Here's a snapshot from the memory book: In an illegal tavern in South Africa's Soweto years ago, a young woman was visibly engrossed in a trashy paperback novel about New York. When she got to the final page, she looked up, smiled -- and kissed the book.

Books do unpredictable things to people. They inspire, challenge, enrage or delight. They give us perspective, hope and ambition, wisdom and strength to endure adversities.

The Baltimore Book Festival, which opens at 5 p.m. today and runs through Sunday at Mount Vernon Place, has become an autumn tradition in its six years of existence. Some 175 literary exhibitors will be on hand, along with a bevy of authors talking about their work and signing their books.

The past year has been a trying one for book lovers. One of the area's premiere book store chains, Bibelot, closed in March. Some smaller outlets also have gone out of business, including second-hand book stores. Publishing houses are feeling economic pressures.

A stroll through the stalls and tents at Mount Vernon Place is unlikely to give any hint of these troubles. For every failing publisher there seems to be another one full of hope and expectations. For every unpublished author there is another eagerly awaiting publication.

The Baltimore Book Festival is a substantial cultural happening, but not a mob scene. It's a place for old friends to meet and new friendships to be forged. Simply stated, it's an event not to be missed.

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