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Author events this week in L.A.: Sharks, Jets and Batman signings ... oh my!

  The former publicist and assistant to Christian Bale, who plays Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises," will sign copies of his tell-all about Bale this week

As the Dark Knight descends on movie theaters this week, a new tell-all book on Christian Bale arrives. Tickets sold out at all the Batman screenings? Head on over to Barnes and Noble in Manhattan Beach on Friday, when Bale's former publicist and assistant, Harrison Cheung, will be signing copies of "Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman." Cheung, who touts himself as the real life Alfred, lived and worked with Christian and his father for 10 years: He shares firsthand accounts of family dysfunction and the actor's extreme dedication to his craft.

Looking for something a little more abstract? Check out wordsmith Laurel Airica in action as she dissectes the English language for wordplay and inspiration in our daily lives with her live presentation "WordMagic Global: Using the Word for the World's ReCreation," from 7-10 p.m. at The Great Spirits Ranch in Malibu.

As always, check with bookstores for event/venue changes or cancellations.

7/17, 8 p.m.: Chuck Palahniuk presents "Invisible Monsters Remix" a radically refashioned "director's cut" of the author's 1999 novel. Skirball Cultural Center

7/18, 7 p.m.: Jess Walter discusses and signs "Beautiful Ruins: A Novel". Book Soup

7/18, 7 p.m.: Carlos Ruiz Zafon presents and signs "The Prisoner of Heaven: A Novel". All Saints Church, Pasadena

7/20, 11 a.m.: Harrison Cheung will sign copies of his book "Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman". Barnes & Noble Manhattan Beach

7/20, 7:30 p.m.: The traveling Slake show continues with a group reading from "Slake LA Issue 4: Dirt."  Vroman's

7/20, 7:30 p.m.: Paula Priamos and Dana Johnson read and sign their books "The Shyster's Daughter," and "Elsewhere, California." Skylight Books

7/21, 7-10 p.m.: Santa Monica-based linguist and author Laurel Airica presents "WordMagic Global: Using the Word for the World's ReCreation." Great Spirits Ranch Malibu

7/ 22, 1 p.m.: Cast members from "West Side Story" will be on hand to share behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the classic film detailed in their book, "Our Story: Jets and Sharks Then and Now." Barnes & Noble Calabasas

-- Liesl Bradner

Photo: Christian Bale as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures "The Dark Knight Rises." Credit: Ron Phillips / Warner Bros.

Literary Death Match: Henry Rollins not big on spoken word

Henry Rollins at Literary Death Match
For people familiar with the creative oeuvre of Henry Rollins, his statements as judge at Literary Death Match on Wednesday night were perplexing. "It's hard to judge literary merit," he said about two poems performed rousingly by Javon Johnson, declining to give them literary status because they were "basically built for performance." How odd: Premiere spoken word artist Henry Rollins deeming performance unliterary. Who would have guessed?

To back up: Literary Death Match is an antic reading series with heavy doses of competition and comedy. It's orchestrated by host and creator Todd Zuniga, a cheerleader in a lounge lizard getup, who guides four readers, a trio of judges, and the audience through an evening that might end, as last night's did, by shooting Silly String at a poster of T.C. Boyle.

The readers are paired off randomly after the event starts. Only one victor will be declared from each pair, and they'll face off in a final round that has nothing to do with books -- another finale featured a cupcake toss. The first part, however, is fairly literary.

Both readers in the first pair read from their work, and the judges evaluate them on a) literary merit, b) performance, and c) intangibles. Last night, Henry Rollins -- punk rock singer, author, DJ, and performance artist -- was the literary merit judge, actress Tig Notaro judged performance, and comedian Rob Delaney covered intangibles. It's usually a comedian who intagible-izes, riffing, and this is a good thing -- particularly to those who've been to a lot of standard dry bookstore readings. Which this is not.

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Remote, picturesque Mazama, Wash., to host book festival

Mazamafest_landscape
The remote hamlet of Mazama, Wash., will host its first literary festival, the Mazama Festival of Books on Aug. 18 and 19, and has begun announcing the authors who will attend.

Located on the eastern side of the Cascade mountain range near the Canadian border, Mazama is about 3.5 hours from Seattle and four hours from Spokane. If that seems a long way to drive for culture, it might not be for those in the Pacific Northwest. There's already a major music festival, Sasquatch, which is held at The Gorge, a stunning natural amphitheater in the mountains almost three hours from Seattle. The environment is part of the attraction.

Admittedly, Sasquatch's roster of bands is also pretty breathtaking. This year, when it was held over Memorial Day weekend, performers included Jack White, Beck, the Roots, Bon Iver, the Dum Dum Girls, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Spiritualized, Blitzen Trapper, the Walkmen, Mark Lanegan, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, St. Vincent, the Civil Wars, M. Ward, Explosions in the Sky, Feist and many, many more.

The inaugural Festival of Books schedule won't be nearly as jampacked -- or as loud. Its lineup so far leans heavily toward authors from the Pacific Northwest, led by Washington poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken. Other authors include children's book author and illustrator Erik Brooks, young-adult author Blake Nelson and memoirists Lidia Yuknavitch and Colleen Mondor. Also on the bill are the novelists Jim Lynch, Pauls Toutonghi, Ryan Boudinot and Danbert Nobacon -- the latter of whom started out as a founding member of the anarchist pop group Chumbawumba, giving the literary festival its own little dose of rock 'n' roll. Katherine Lanpher is on tap as an interviewer. Additional authors are expected to be announced in July.

All festival events will be free. It will be presented by the Methow Valley Arts Alliance, the Trails End Bookstore and the Mazama Country Inn. That inn may come in handy because if you plan to attend, you'll have to find a place to stay (though there are other hotels nearby).

RELATED:

Remembering Bukowski with Harry Dean Stanton on Saturday

Philip Roth to headline National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

LéaLA celebrates Spanish-language books, at the L.A. Convention Center

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The Mazama, Wash., landscape. Credit: Bill Pope

Remembering Bukowski with Harry Dean Stanton on Saturday

Harrydeanstantonbukowski
A parade of Hollywood stars who are fans of writer Charles Bukowski, led by Harry Dean Stanton, will pay tribute to the author at a celebration on Saturday. The free show, at the Grand Performances outdoor stage, begins at 8 p.m.

Bukowski, who died in 1994, was a celebrated writer of L.A.'s gritty side. A longtime post office employee, Bukowski was a hard drinker who lived on the edge. He wrote a column, "Notes of a Dirty Old Man," which was published by a handful of underground newspapers in the late 1960s. In 1969, at age 49, he quit his day job to write a book for Black Sparrow Press; that novel was "Post Office."

While not a bestseller, Bukowski was a favorite of the underground (and the French). He wrote six novels, including "Factotum" and "Ham on Rye," and dozens of poetry collections. Disinclined toward capitalization and with a fondness for raw language, he wrote poems like "i wanted to overthrow the government but all i brought down was somebody's wife" and "a 340 dollar horse and a hundred dollar whore."

Bukowski's work reached the mainstream after the 1987 release of the movie "Barfly," which starred Mickey Rourke as the Bukowski-like character Harry Chianski. It was set in dive bars and the seedy parts of Los Angeles.

Downtown L.A. has been cleaned up considerably since Bukowski's time, featuring cultural celebrations like Grand Performances. On Saturday, the reading series Tongue & Groove takes over the stage to present a tribute to Charles Bukowski.

Hollywood stars Harry Dean Stanton and Rebecca De Mornay headline the evening. Other readers include writer Dan Fante, whose father, John Fante, was an inspiration to, and rediscovered by, Charles Bukowski. Poets Jack Grapes, Kenneth Sonny Donato and Chiwan Choi, and writer Wendy Rainey will also read. Two writers who knew Bukowski, Joan Jobe Smith and Gerald Locklin, will also take the stage, so in addition to readings there may well be reminiscences.

Bukowski died at age 73 in 1994. His papers are now at the Huntington Library.

RELATED:

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Charles Bukowski: writing, drinking, writing

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Left photo: Harry Dean Stanton in 2006. Credit: Robert Lachman / L.A. Times. Right photo: Charles Bukowski from the documentary film "Bukowski: Born Into This," released by Magnolia Pictures. Credit: Michael Montfort

Celebrating Bloomsday and James Joyce

Bloomsday_thehammer2011

On Saturday, Angelenos can celebrate one of the greatest novels of the 20th century -– by gathering together and raising a glass of Guinness.

June 16 is Bloomsday, so called for Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyce's "Ulysses." The notoriously challenging novel blasted through formal conventions and become an iconic work of modernist fiction; its 600-plus pages take place in Dublin over the course of a single day, June 16, 1904.

Although it has now become the focus of public celebrations, “Ulysses” was, at first, the stuff of hushed words and darting glances. Serialized by an American literary journal in the late teens, part of Joyce's novel -- involving masturbation -- was ruled obscene in 1921. Expatriate Sylvia Beach, owner of the famed Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, published the complete "Ulysses" abroad in 1922, yet it was officially banned in America. In 1933, Random House’s attempt to import copies of the controversial novel were at the center of a major court case; “Ulysses” won, helping to prise open laws regarding “obscene” content.

Of course, just because American readers had access to “Ulysses” didn’t mean it was accessible. The novel is the stuff of semester-long seminars and Ph.D. theses – making it an odd candidate for marathon public readings, city tours and evening dancing.

“The really big breakthrough was in 1982, celebrating the centenary of Joyce's birth with a large Joyce symposium in Dublin,” Dr. Vincent Cheng, co-editor of 2009’s “Joyce in Context,” writes from this year’s conference in Ireland. “Bloomsday 2004 in Dublin was the first time that it felt like a fully public celebration, with lots of locals and tourists joining the Joycean academics in celebrating the day.” People lucky enough to be in Dublin this year can download the JoyceWays iPhone app, three years in the making, a literary tour through the city circa 1904.

Joyce enthusiasm has spread across America, where Symphony Space in New York has presented “Bloomsday on Broadway” for 31 years; this year’s performance will be streamed live online. Also online will be a classic reading by Alec Baldwin, Wallace Shawn and others at Pacifica Radio; at seven hours, it’s still only a portion of the 600-plus-page text.

At the Hammer, which hosts LA’s premiere performance-and-participation Bloomsday event, actors will be reading the book’s “Aeolus” section, or, more plainly, the part of the novel set in the offices of the Freeman’s Journal newspaper. It also includes a visit to a pub.

The Hammer will be offering happy hour Guinness from 6 to 7:30 p.m., accompanied by Irish music. Joyce enthusiasts can arrive up to two hours earlier to participate in an open “Ulysses” reading. When the performance is done, there will be more music, and more Guinness.

Is all this drinking and dancing an appropriate way to celebrate a brilliant work of literature? “I think Bloomsday events absolutely do a service to Joyce's work,” Cheng says. “Not only are they a lot of fun for Joyce aficionados, but they get people who have never read Joyce (and who might otherwise never dare try such challenging reading) interested in looking at these wonderful (but very difficult) books, especially ‘Ulysses.’"

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After 22 years, Kate Bush gets to record James Joyce

2011: 8 ways to celebrate James Joyce and Bloomsday

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Celebrating Irish heritage and Bloomsday, named for James Joyce's "Ulysses," at the Hammer in 2011. Credit: Hammer Museum

826LA adds Pee-wee Herman to Judd Apatow benefit

Apatowpeewee

The Los Angeles branch of the literary nonprofit founded by Dave Eggers, 826LA, counts among its star supporters writer-director/producer Judd Apatow. He hosts the occasional live event to raise funds for the organization, called the Judd and Jon Comedy Music Hour(s). The Jon is musician Jon Brion, who leads the music part of the show.

On Tuesday, 826LA announced two guests who will be on the bill: Pee-wee Herman and Ray Romano. It's hard to imagine the comic minds of laconic Romano and antic Pee-wee meeting, but that may be the point. It had already promised to be entertaining, with Apatow, Brion and Peter Frampton (yes, that Peter Frampton) confirmed. Expect more surprise guests (one previous event included Lindsey Buckingham, Randy Newman, Garry Shandling, Ryan Adams, Aziz Ansari and Maria Bamford).

The event is scheduled for June 14 on the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. However, rubbing shoulders with Apatow and friends isn't cheap: Regular tickets are $250, and VIP tickets, which include a reception, are $500. But it is for charity -- a literary one.  

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Judd Apatow, left, in New York in April 2012. Right, Pee-wee Herman in 2009. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Philip Roth to headline National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

  Philiproth_2010
Iconic American author Philip Roth will headline the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., this fall. Roth, now 79, has won the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award twice, the Pulitzer Prize once, and received piles more accolades. His most recent novel is 2010's "Nemesis."

Initially having taken place during a single day, the 12-year-old National Book Festival will now span an entire weekend, Sept. 22-23. Book fair enthusiasts may be disappointed; that Sunday is also the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Presented by the Library of Congress, the 2012 National Book Festival has many literary boldface names: T.C. Boyle, Mario Vargas Llosa, Robert Caro, Geraldine Brooks, Junot Diaz, Colson Whitehead, Philip Levine and Jeffrey Eugenides. Mystery writers attending include Charlaine Harris, Michael Connelly and Patricia Cornwell. There will be a pavilion for children and a dedicated storytelling stage.

While further details about the schedule are forthcoming, the National Book Festival has released a preliminary -- and long -- list of authors who will be participating:

Katherine Applegate, Avi, Natalie Babbitt, Bob Balaban, Fergus Bordewich, Natalie Pope Boyce, Christopher Bram, Giannina Braschi, Peter Brown, Douglas Brinkley, Stephen L. Carter, Sandra Cisneros, Bryan Collier, James Dashner, Anna Dewdney, Michael Dirda, Maria Dueñas, Stephen Dunn, John A. Farrell, Sharon Flake, Thomas Friedman, John Gaddis, Michael Grant, Linda Greenhouse, Jenny Hahn, Joy Harjo, Charlaine Harris, Paul Hendrickson, Ellen Hopkins, Nalo Hopkinson, Tony Horwitz, Steve Inskeep, Walter Isaacson, Eloise James, Jewel, Tayari Jones, Laura Kasischke, Charles Kupchan, Hope Larson, David Levithan, Margot Livesey,  Mike Lupica, Lois Lowry, Thomas Mallon, Sonia Manzano, David Maraniss, Leonard Marcus, Chris Matthews, Steven Millhauser, Walter Dean Myers, Corey Olsen, Mary Pope Osborne, Patricia Polacco, Chris Raschka, Marilynne Robinson, Laura Amy Schlitz, Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella, Susan Richards Shreve, Anita Silvey, Sally Bedell Smith, Jerry Spinelli, Philip C. and Erin E. Stead, Margie Stiefvater, David Ezra Stein, David O. Stewart, R.L. Stine, Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, Raina Telgemeier, Craig Thompson, Jeffrey Toobin, Justin Torres, Vernor Vinge, Siobhan Vivian, Eric Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson and Daniel Yergin.

The National Book Festival, which is held on the National Mall between 9th and 14th streets, is free.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Philip Roth in 2010. Credit: Nancy Crampton

Two topics that don't go together: The inspired Mixed Taste series

  In the Mixed Taste series, presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, there are combined presentations by two speakers, each of whom talks on their separate field of expertise
Cockroaches, Judas, the Napoleonic Wars and dubstep. Curious people in Denver can hear about any of these things from knowledgeable experts this summer. What's unusual is that they'll hear about them in pairs -- very mismatched pairs. Cockroaches and Judas. Dubstep and the Napoleonic Wars.

It's the Mixed Taste series, presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. There are two speakers, each of whom presents on their separate field of expertise. Then, in the question-and-answer session, the people in the audience draw out connections between the two. And they do.

"Wittgenstein and hula dancing appear on the surface to have nothing to do with each other," said organizer Sarah Baie, whose title at the museum is director of programming and chief of fictions. "In truth, hula dancing is a kind of language but with dance -- a way to convey meaning through an art form." The well-read audience pointed out different ways that hula illustrated Wittgenstein's ideas about language.

The series was founded in 2004, when MCA Denver's director, Adam Lerner, was faced with the prospect of hosting "Taste of ..." events, which would allow people to take a quick look at one kind of art or another. As Baie tells it, he thought that sounded like a miserable evening. Instead, he thought to put two disconnected ideas together to see what might happen. Like, say, "Nietzsche and Puppies, Puppies, Puppies!"

In addition to philosophers and animals, literature is in the mix. Some notable literary Mixed Taste disconnections: Emily Dickinson and Bananas Foster, meat sausage and T.S. Eliot, prairie dogs and Gertrude Stein, and tamales and literary memoirs. If there's a trend, it seems to be authors and food -- this summer's lineup includes beef and Edgar Allan Poe. But, just when it seems like there's a pattern, Mixed Taste mixes is up: On Aug. 2, Flannery O'Connor is paired with phantom limbs.

Some of the speakers get asked back; most, like the mixologist who will be speaking about gin martinis, have a field of expertise that's best for just one session. The series begins June 7 and ends August 30; tickets are $20 for the general public.

The first Mixed Taste session, in 2004, had about 10 people in the audience; this June, it moves to a 350-seat theater. "I can't imagine we'd get this many people to go to an hourlong talk about Russian conceptualism," Baie said. "But you pair it with 'Pirates!'..."

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LéaLA celebrates Spanish-language books

L.A. literary salon remembers noir at Musso & Frank

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: In 2009, then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (now governor of Colorado) spoke on show tunes at an installment of Mixed Tastes.The vitrines were there to illustrate the other subject of that evening's discussion, aquatic plants. Credit: Mixed Tastes

Authors in town this week: Benjamin Busch, Erik Larson and Pico Iyer

Benjamin Busch, center, while on "The Wire"
Benjamin Busch has an interesting resume. He’s an actor -- he played Anthony Colicchio on the HBO series “The Wire,” appearing in the final three seasons of the show -- and also a photographer, former Marine Corps officer and writer.

The son of novelist Frederick Busch, he was raised in upstate New York and went to Vassar College. An item in the New Yorker recently noted that his parents had protested the Vietnam War and Benjamin confounded them by joining the Marines after graduating. He served two tours of duty in Iraq with the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and, while there, took photographs of his combat experience. He has shown those photographs in three exhibitions. In his memoir, “Dust to Dust,” he considers his life so far -- he's in town this week at Vroman’s and Skylight Books.

Also this week: Pico Iyer, one of our favorite writers and thinkers, is in conversation with Lisa Napoli in a Live Talks Los Angeles program at the Fowler Musuem  at UCLA on Thursday. Erik Larson, author of  “Devil in the White City” and, most recently, “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” in conversation with David Kipen at Writer’s Bloc on Tuesday. And, if dogs are your thing, W. Bruce Cameron discusses his latest foray into the canine world also on Tuesday at Book Soup.

There are plenty of great, no-cost, low-cost, higher-cost events available, so get out and enjoy. As always, we suggest you check the appropriate venue to confirm information and notice on late cancellations.  

Monday, May 14, 7 p.m. Benjamin Busch reads and signs “Dust to Dust: a Memoir.” Vroman’s

Monday, May 14, 7 p.m. David Talbot discusses and signs “Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love.” Book Soup

Tuesday, May 15, 7:30 p.m. Benjamin Busch reads and signs “Dust to Dust: a Memoir” Skylight Books

Tuesday, May 15, 7:30 p.m. Erik Larson, author of “Devil in the White City” and “In the Garden of Beasts” in conversation with David Kipen in a Writer’s Bloc event at Temple Emanuel, 300 N. Clark Drive, Beverly Hills. Tickets: $20

Tuesday, May 15, 7 p.m. Christelyn D. Karazin and Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn discuss “Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed" Eso Won Bookstore

Tuesday, May 15, 7 p.m. W. Bruce Cameron discusses and signs “A Dog’s Journey” Book Soup

Tuesday, May 15, 8 p.m. Gregg Allman talks about his memoir “My Cross to Bear” with Alan Light as part of Live Talks Los Angeles program at Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Tickets: $25

Continue reading »

LéaLA celebrates Spanish-language books this weekend

Leala2Here’s a trick question (at least for non-Spanish speakers): What’s North America’s most book-loving city? New York? Los Angeles? Toronto?

A good case could be made for awarding the bibliophiles’ prize to Guadalajara, a metropolis that many U.S. tourists associate only with mariachis and tequila.

The beautiful baroque-colonial city, Mexico’s second-largest, annually hosts what is reputed to be the largest book fair in the northern half of the Western Hemisphere. Formally known as La Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara, or FIL, the yearly convocation draws tens of thousands of visitors as well as hundreds of the world’s preeminent Spanish-language authors, from Barcelona to Buenos Aires.

This weekend, Angelenos will be flocking to the 2nd annual edition of  LéaLA, Feria del Libro en Español de Los Ángeles, a kind of scaled-down version of Guadalajara’s massive book festival, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Backed by the University of Guadalajara, and free and open to public, LéaLA aims to promote Spanish-language and Spanish-translated literature through book publishers’ sales-displays and readings and talks by distinguished authors.

Simultaneously, the festival is intended to bolster a growing cultural connection between Southern California’s enormous Mexican American/Latino population and Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco, the ancestral home of more L.A. Latinos than any other Mexican state.

Finally, LéaLA attempts to help make amends for a bizarre L.A. cultural phenomenon: the city’s near-absence of Spanish-language bookstores. Apart from public libraries, university bookstores (which stock course-related titles) and a handful of small shops like Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in Sylmar and the Libros Schmibros bookstore/lending library in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles -- with the United States’ largest Spanish-speaking population -- has virtually no place to find and buy Spanish-language books.

In only its second year, LéaLA already has become one of the largest Spanish-language book-related events in the United States. Last year it drew 36,000 people to its inaugural edition. This year, with 200 individual exhibition stalls, up from 84 last year, and four times as much total floor space, festival organizers expect an even larger turnout.

Among the boldface names at this year’s festival, which runs through Sunday, are the best-selling Mexican-Spanish writer and novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II, crime writer James Ellroy, the Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal and Mexican political analyst and intellectual Enrique Krauze.

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