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Book a day at Book Fest

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It would be an odd newspaper that refused to support programs that stress reading, writing and literacy. Fortunately, Utah has many high-caliber reading programs that merit strong support.

One such event is the Great Salt Lake Book Festival on Library Square this week. Slated for Saturday and Sunday, the Festival is the brainchild of the Utah Humanities Council. And this time around, the council put some extra gray matter into the planning and some extra money into the execution. More than 30 award-winning authors are slated to give presentations. Activities range from letterpress printing and paper making to a poetry slam. There will be a "book hospital" where people can patch up favorite books and a silent auction where they purchase favorite collectibles and signatures.

The Humanities Council deserves an ovation for putting its funding into such a fine mixture of enlightenment and entertainment.

For all the talk of America becoming a "visual nation" and the gloomy impression that the country is "dumbing down," there remains a healthy respect — even a reverence — for the printed word. And the Book Festival serves as a prime of example of the way language and books have more facets than a house of mirrors.

"A book," wrote Henry Ward Beecher, "is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor."

That and more. The fair will add "books as toys" to the list, by showcasing the clever wordplay of humor columnists and children's writers.

"Books as memory" will be seen in the presentation of local historians, books as "artwork" will show up in the craft of Madelyn Garret of the University of Utah. Visitors will also see "books as tools" in the hands of Joy Harjo and other poets and as "portraits" in the hands of social commentators such as Sandra Cisneros and Hector Ahumada.

The theme this year, "Finding Your Place," refers to both thumbing through pages and locating yourself in the larger world. Appreciation of diversity and differences will be a major emphasis of the Festival.

Organizers see the fair as not only a place to celebrate language but a place to celebrate each other.

We agree. We encourage all who can to attend the free event.