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Literary Culture Decentralized at LA’s Little Literary Fair

 

A brand-new book fair premiered in Los Angeles in July. LitLit, the Little Literary Fair was free and open to the public, and featured more than 20 exhibitors ⁠— independent publishers, booksellers and cultural creators from Los Angeles and the rest of the West Coast.

Charles Degelman, author of Gates of Eden and A Bowl Full of Nails, enjoyed the streams of people flowing by Harvard Square Editions’ booth and the “extraordinary variety of the festival participants. LitLit proved to be as diverse as Los Angeles can be! Beautiful space, wonderful interaction between readers, writers, and publishers.”

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Left, Susan Rubin, playwright and author of forthcoming novel ROAD NOT TAKEN. Right, Charles Degelman, author of A BOWL FULL OF NAILS, fields a question about Harvard Square Editions’ titles winning awards such as the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, IPPY and Nautilus prizes.

“We were most excited by the enormous amount of interest in small literary houses on the part of the general public,” said Diane Haithman, journalist and author of the diverse, debut novel Dark Lady of Hollywood.

The fair is meant to highlight the burgeoning small-press scene in L.A., according to Tom Lutz, founder and editor-in-chief of the LA Review of Books.

“The small press world of Los Angeles is exploding,” Lutz said. “At least half the small presses that are in the fair have been born in the last decade. It is part of L.A., which had always been home to great writers, really coming into its own as a literary city.”

“They each have things they do best, and some are the best in the country at what they do,” Lutz said.

Exhibitors included California-based presses Harvard Square Editions, Red Hen, Not a Cult, Unnamed Press, Angel City Press, Rare Bird Books and Kaya Press.

The Los Angeles Public Library, Words Uncaged, and the LARB/USC Publishing Workshop were among other exhibitors at the fair, which featured interviews and panel discussions focusing on “themes such as activism, art, and absurdity,” organizers said.

The new book fair grew out of a partnership between Hauser & Wirth Publishers, a branch of the Zurich-based art gallery, and the Los Angeles Review of Books and took place at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, the arts complex in L.A.’s Downtown Arts District. The arts complex, located in a former flour mill, is the home of Hauser & Wirth gallery, the Artbook bookstore and Kris Tominaga’s restaurant Manuela.

Michaela Unterdörfer, publisher of Hauser & Wirth Publishers, said the fair was inspired “by the vibrant ecosystem of West Coast publishing.”

“Los Angeles has such a rich history of cross-disciplinary cultural production, and for decades there’s been a strong, if under-recognized, tradition of artists and publishers who have shaped Southern California’s literary scene through their dedication to the potential of publications as artistic mediums,” Unterdörfer added.

“Recently, this has been furthered by the significant emergence of collectives, small presses and independent publishers that’s allowing a discursive and highly engaged community to flourish in new and innovative ways.”

Los Angeles Review of Books editor Lutz said, “L.A. has played second fiddle to New York in so many areas of culture for so long, but now the city is recognized as on a par in many of the arts. At the same time, culture is decentralizing and diversifying — this is part of a nationwide and worldwide phenomenon — L.A. is prepared for this shift and is building the new infrastructure for it.”

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