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Where books reign and readers celebrate... in Westwood

April 24, 2010 | 11:27 pm
Grace Burke, 4, held by mother Kati Burke, 34, listens as The Fresh Beat Band performs at Target Children's Stage on Saturday during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held at UCLA in Westwood.

Mystery writers can be a dark lot.


"When I was growing up, I was always interested in those books, ‘Women Who Kill,' " Megan Abbott, author of "Bury Me Deep," intoned as her audience laughed. She chuckled. "Strange kid."

Across the UCLA campus Saturday, there were writerly confessions — and not just from the authors of noirish mystery tales — and political musings. Celebrities reflected on their lives, poets read from their works and a person or two could be found strolling the grounds in costume.

For the 15th year, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which runs through Sunday, sprawled across the campus of UCLA, offering visitors both logistical and cognitive challenges. For example: Do you hear TV personality Melissa Rivers give advice on how to be "Red Carpet Ready" (the title of her book) or do you listen to an L.A. River expert discuss the future of water? Doing both would require being in two places at the same time. (On the other hand, the panel of science writers convening later Saturday to talk about the universe could tell you how that might be possible one day.)


Rivers and her famous mother, Joan, virtually invented covering the red carpet at awards shows. But Melissa had less advice for her audience than funny stories about her life as a divorced mother, her stints on celebrity TV reality shows and her mother's antics. She's about to begin shooting a reality show in which her mother comes to live with her in the Santa Monica home that Melissa shares with her boyfriend, son, another friend, two dogs and a turtle. "It's called ‘Mother Knows Best?' — with a question mark," she said.

At the mystery writers' panel, another author talked about her parents. Attica Locke, a Hollywood screenwriter turned novelist, channeled her fascination with her own parents' political activism into "Black Water Rising," a novel about a criminal defense attorney in Houston during the Reagan era.

"I'd say to my father, ‘Describe for me the night that Stokely Carmichael came to the University of Houston campus,' " said Locke (who was named for the prison where the infamous uprising occurred decades ago.) "My parents were part of the black power movement.... I was really interested in the pathology of the movement."

Read the full story here.

--Carla Hall in Westwood

Photo: Ann Johansson / For The Times / April 24, 2010

Grace Burke, 4, held by mother Kati Burke, 34, listens as The Fresh Beat Band performs at Target Children's Stage on Saturday during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held at UCLA in Westwood.

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