I guess it could be considered ironic that Dane County, the locale of liberal, health-conscious Madison, is the largest tobacco-growing county in Wisconsin. The plant, in the form of the commodities that reach the public - cigars, cigarettes, chew - has been much reviled by partisans in the smoking wars.
But that's just one of the interesting facts about the plant, and its place in Wisconsin history, contained in "Sticking With Tobacco," Ellen J. Meany's account (with a little help from friend Kristian Knutsen, editor of TheDailyPage.com) of the tobacco-growing industry in these parts. Meany, Isthmus' creative director, lives on a working truck farm with husband Rob Baratz outside of Stoughton, once a tobacco-growing center. They do not grow tobacco, only vegetables.
The big event anticipated in this issue is the Wisconsin Book Festival, which takes place throughout Madison and nearby locations from Wednesday, Sept. 29, through Sunday, Oct. 3. There's a raft of activities, all of which were detailed in the program that accompanied the Sept. 10 issue of Isthmus. The festival spans the range of interests that books do: books for kids, books on spiritual beliefs, history, literature. It's got it all. And all events are free.
Staff writer David Medaris enumerates some of the festival highlights in our arts and entertainment lead story. Contributor Josh Wimmer writes about another book event, the scheduled appearance of noted science fantasy writer Harlan Ellison. It could be Ellison's last public appearance, if he can make it. He is dying, but committed.
On a more upbeat note, news editor Bill Lueders and his new book, Watchdog, derived largely from the pages of Isthmus, will be part of the Book Festival. He's appearing at noon on Oct. 3, in a session entitled "Wisconsin Stories" at the Wisconsin Studio in the Overture Center. He'll be sharing the podium with Erika Janik, author of A Short History of Wisconsin.