The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports that the Reading Festival's board of directors met, canceled the festival, and are to dissolve the corporation. Apparently, mounting the festival was getting so costly that the charity goal of the fete, the raison d'etre of the whole proceeding, could not be met.
While quite understandable, it is- like so much of what goes on in Sarasota- penny wise and pound foolish. Granted, the funds when they were available were nice. But other the years, the festival became so much more. It was a true celebration of literacy. It was positively thrilling to my old bibliophile's heart to see the excitement on young people's faces, put there by books. You can read my transports over the last one on this blog.
The festival was a private undertaking, but its demise is symptomatic of a greater malaise in town. Sarasota which prides itself on its cultural heritage and sophistication seems to be hell bent on turning into any one of hundreds of Florida municipalities, bastions of materialism. If it is not quantifiable, it is cut back, eliminated. Budget shortfall? No problem- cut libraries, parks. Libraries are a "privilege" which not everyone uses, as if raising future citizens were producing widgets. And culture, well, apparently that is the province of the well-heeled. Coming from the New York City school of cultural egalitarianism, I still have difficulty with the concept.
I'll miss the reading festival where over the years I met quite a few of my favorite authors, including fellow Cuban Carolina Garcia Aguilera, who is an extremely nice lady. More importantly there are literally thousands of children who will never know what they missed.