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On Sunday: T.C. Boyle's basement, David Treuer and more

April 15, 2012 |  7:02 am

T.C. Boyle with the Ransom Center's Megan Barnard
Is there anything in your basement worth $425,000?  The answer to that question informs Carolyn Kellogg’s conversation with author T.C. Boyle this Sunday. It centers around the archive of his life’s work -- manuscripts, research, notes and bound volumes -- all of it residing in the basement of his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Santa Barbara.

When the Montecito Tea fire raged through the area in 2008, Boyle said, “It scared the bejesus out of me” because what was in the basement was irreplaceable. The fire didn’t touch his house, although it claimed more than 200 others. Eventually, the Ransom Center came knocking, offering to buy his archive for that tidy six-figure sum. The center, at the University of Texas in Austin, is now the home for the papers of Norman Mailer and Don DeLillo among others.

Boyle reflects on the center and his archive in the article that starts on Page One of Arts & Books. He will be reading at the Times Festival of Books on Saturday, April 21.

Also in our Sunday coverage is David Ulin’s profile of David Treuer, the novelist and USC professor, about his book “Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life,” which recounts Treuer’s childhood growing up on Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota (he’s the son of an Ojibwe mother and a Jewish father).

Treuer says he took on the project after a 16-year-old named Jeffrey James Weise went on a shooting spree at a school on Minnesota’s Red Lake Reservation. He thought the issues of reservation life could be discussed with relative ease, but he found them more complex than he anticipated: “What does identity mean when traditional languages are dying, when the very thing that has brought money into Indian communities -- the commercialization of the casinos -- threatens to undermine a more traditional way of life?" Treuer will also be appearing at the Festival of Books on Sunday, April 22.

Neal Gabler checks in with a perceptive commentary on Daniel Boorstin’s “The Image,” on the 50th anniversary this year of its publication.

Boorstin’s book described the culture’s shift from valuing the genuine to celebrating pseudo-reality. It was considered, Gabler writes, “one of those seminal books that not only capture the zeitgeist but change the American mind-set." The book “invented what would later become known as postmodernism -- the odd cultural Moebius strip by which so many elements of our lives become imitations of themselves.” Fascinating reading from one of our more interesting social critics.

That nice English lad and eminent artist David Hockney is the subject of a new biography by Christopher Simon Sykes. The book “David Hockney: A Rake’s Progress/The Biography, 1937-1975” is the first installment in the two-part project.  Times art critic Christopher Knight reviews the book and calls it both “conversational and perceptive” and writes that “perhaps the most striking feature of Hockney’s life as Sykes tells it is his almost casual, always determined attitude of doing as he wishes.”

Another artist who did as she wished was the poet Adrienne Rich who died late last month at 82. Poet Carol Muske-Dukes offers perspective and some wonderful anecdotes on her friend Rich, whom she calls “a great lyric poet and a great didactic poet” who was concerned “with the great questions of being.” Dukes will be at the Festival in a panel on April 21 and reading her poetry on April 22.

We also include this week Michael Ryan’s poem “Girls Middle School Orchestra” from his latest collection, titled “This Morning.” Ryan will be reading at the Festival of Books on Saturday, April 21.

And Susan Carpenter looks at Trenton Lee Stewart’s “The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict,” a book for those 8 and up from the author of the “Mysterious Benedict Society” series.

On the bestsellers list this week, Rachel Maddow’s “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power” made it to No. 1 on the nonfiction side. Our Reed Johnson covered Maddow’s recent visit to Los Angeles and her appearance with Bill Maher at a Writer’s Bloc event. 

Also during the week, we ran profiles of Adam Mansbach, the author of the wildly popular “Go the F--- to Sleep”; Leonard Mlodinow, the author of “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior” as well as co-author of two books with Stephen Hawking and one with Deepak Chopra; and reviews of Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit"; “Dodgers From Coast to Coast: The Complete Visual History of the Dodgers”; and Olen Steinhauer’s “an American Spy.” Duhigg, Mansbach, Mlodinow and Steinhauer will all be at the Festival of Books. (Maybe Maddow, Maher and the Dodgers will come next year.)

And here's a complete list of events at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

As always, thanks for reading,

-- Jon Thurber, Book editor     

Photo: T.C. Boyle at the Ransom Center with Megan Barnard, assistant director for acquisitions and administration. Credit: Alicia Dietrich / Ransom Center