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The week's readings: Don't miss Jim Shepard

January 18, 2009 | 12:14 pm

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Our top pick: Jim Shepherd at the Hammer Museum at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Free.

Jim Shepard once told Powell's, "My characters often began or begin in the real world, and then find themselves in the midst of extremities: psychic, dreamlike, harrowing." His book "Like You'd Understand, Anyway" won the 2007 Story Prize and was a finalist for that year's National Book Award. The L.A. Times review said, "These wildly diverse stories share a fascination with the inevitable cost of familial obligation and the inescapable fallout from disaster, both natural and human-made."

Otherwise this week, the big conundrum is which reading to catch on Thursday.

On the fiction front, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum and Amity Gaige will be at Skylight Books at 7:30 p.m. The authors of "The Ms. Hempel Chronicles" and "The Folded World," respectively, will read and talk about their work. Both women attended Brown before getting MFAs from the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop and are known for writing beautifully. The reading is free.

There's good poetry on the calendar too. David Lehman, whose work can be found here, is editor of the Best American Poetry series and teaches at the New School in New York City; he'll read at the Hammer Museum at 7 p.m.; free.

And if you'd rather dwell in the real, the panel discussion "Thinking About Earthquakes" at ALOUD at the LA Public Library is for you. L.A. Times Books Editor David L. Ulin ("The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith") joins Michael Dear, professor of geography and urban planning at USC; Lucy Jones, Caltech and USGS seismologist; Dennis Mileti, director of the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center; and Mariana Amatullo, director of Art Center's project "The LA Earthquake: Get Ready," to talk about you-know-what.  Starts at 7 p.m.; it's free, but reservations are required.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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