Festival of Reading held at USF St. Petersburg

10/27/08 Concetta DeLuco
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The 16th Annual St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading was held at USF St. Peterburg on Saturday. Notable speakers, avid readers and book vendors crowded the streets near downtown and transformed the campus into a marketplace for literary lovers.

Visitors to the festival had access to more than 50 authors there to promote and discuss their books within the lecture halls of the waterfront campus. Among those who participated included Jay Allison, a journalist and producer for public broadcast in the Cape Cod region. He is most famously known to his NPR listeners as the curator of the radio series, This I Believe, which allows regular people to submit 500 word personal statements about their beliefs and have them broadcast.

Allison brings these essays together again in his second version of his book titled, This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. Allison said this series allows average people to have a voice as well as a chance to listen to each other, which in itself can bring resolution to a lot of misunderstandings between people.

The “This I Believe” series was resurrected four years ago by Allison and is an extension of the original 1950’s NPR series of the same name that was hosted by acclaimed journalist, Edward Murrow. Allison said he brought the series back because commercial radio feeds off conflict that tries to divide people. He wanted to do something different and bring people together by allowing those who would normally assume they have nothing in common to take the time to listen to each other and understand each other. The only way people can respond to an essay they do not agree with is to write their own philosophical statement.

Political economic historian and former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips spoke about his new book, Bad Money, which breaks down the causes of the United States current financial crisis. Phillips said the American people were totally deceived by Wall Street, the government and the banks to believe that real estate was the only market that was in a slump for the past couple years. He said, citizens were not prepared for the urgency that the Wall Street bailout in September demanded because they had no warning.

Phillips said that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans in Washington will address the economic crisis directly because they have both profited from the financial sector. And while he blames President Bush and his advisors for some of the more recent decisions, Phillips said financial buildup can be traced back to during the Clinton presidency, as well, making it a bipartisan conspiracy.

Another guest author and NPR journalist, Dick Meyer, promoted his book, Why We Hate Us. The title, Meyer said, is slightly aggressive, but it should not be misinterpreted. The book is not anti-American or politically based, and it is not about Americans hating each other, rather it deals with peoples distaste toward the American public culture, Meyer said. “We” is each individual person like an aunt or employee hating the collective “us” and the bad habits the American people have come to accept as part of our culture.

Meyer said our country has suffered a change in social habits and ideals from the 1960s when family and community were valued. We have more wealth now than during the ‘60s and can have a choice in almost every segment of our lives, but as a society we are less happy. The reason, Meyer said, is because even with all that we have, we do not have any close relationships and that is the only thing that can make us happy.

Other authors in attendance included Alexandra Kerry, Martin Dyckman, Bob Delaney, Stephen Fry and Mitchell Graham.

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