- Fiction meets fashion as Dylan Landis reads from her collection Normal People Don’t Live Like This in a couple of appearances at two Eileen Fisher clothing stores: Wed 3/3 6pm at the Costa Mesa location; Thurs 3/4 6:30 in Century City; both readings will be lightly catered and will include a small shopping discount–click on Dylan’s name and go to the Events page for more info.
- Book Soup hosts noted local artist Ed Ruscha on Sat 3/6 7pm with Fifty Years of Painting; and on Mon 3/8 7pm, Laila Lalami with her novel Secret Son, now in paperback.
- At Skylight Books: Sat 3/6 5pm, WriteGirl (a terrific organization that tutors teenage girls) features readings from their new anthology, Silhouette; Sat 3/27 5pm, readings from the latest two Akashic Noir anthologies (featuring Susan Straight among others); Wed 3/31 7:30, Arthur Phillips, The Song is You.
- Vroman’s in Pasadena welcomes Tin Johnston and his collection Irish Girl, Mon 3/15 7pm; on Wed 3/17 7pm, Chang-rae Lee with The Surrendered; and on Wed 3/27 7pm, Sam Lipsyte and The Ask (which gets a nice write-up in the current Poets & Writers).
- UCLA’s Hammer Museum (a great reading venue) hosts Mary Gaitskill, Tues 3/9 7pm; and on Wed 3/24 7pm, Sheila Heti.
- The Central Library’s ALOUD Series has a number of interesting events this month, among them, Tim O’Brien in conversation with David Ulin, Thurs 3/18 7pm.
- The always lively reading series Vermin on the Mount (at Chinatown’s Mountain Bar) is back Sun 3/14 8pm with Jami Attenberg, Jennine Capo Crucet, Margaret Wappler & T. Greenwood.
- On the same night, Sun 3/14 7pm, Book Party (another terrific bar-based reading series, at Mandrake in Culver City) features Edan Lepucki (with some impressive credits that include Narrative and Meridian) and Steve De Jarnatt (whose first published story is in this year’s Best American Short Stories anthology).
- And, rounding out the evening’s triple threat, the New Short Fiction Series continues at its new home in Barnsdall Park, Sun 3/14 7pm, with stories by Tatjana Soli (with her own impressive list of credits, among them StoryQuarterly, The Sun, and Third Coast).
There are plenty of reasons to mention Dylan Landis and Mary Otis in the same breath. Both write wonderful short stories–dense with careful language, close observation, complex emotion, and a certain mystery. Both were mentored by much-loved teacher, writer, and Santa Monica Review founder Jim Krusoe. Both have connections to Tin House magazine: Mary’s 2007 collection Yes, Yes, Cherries was published by their book division; and the magazine was an early believer in Dylan’s work, publishing two of the stories from her recent collection, Normal People Don’t Live Like This. And the two will appear together, Thurs Nov. 19, 7pm at UCLA’s Hammer Museum.
I’ve been fortunate to become friends with both, and asked them to write a little about the other and throw in some choice quotes from the other’s work:
- Dylan on Mary: The first thing I love about each story Mary Otis writes is that it breathes: her sentences have the same cadences, nervous laughs and tiny stunned silences as her characters–her inner ear is that finely tuned. A second thing I love is that her people get things wrong while trying to get them right; it can leave you weeping, especially in a story like “Unstruck.” A third thing I love is that whatever she describes, it’s always fabulously unfamiliar, as if you’ve never quite seen the world before.
- A Mary Otis sampler: Then he kisses her and her insides unfurl, suddenly beautiful, like a lush bolt of fabric thrown out upon a table (from “Unstruck”). / A woman wearing a business suit hurried by, pulling a piece of luggage that was stamped Useless if Delayed (a passer-by at an airport, from “Triage”). / Iris pretends to wash the pavement with her hair (a frustrated child in “Five-Minute Hearts”).
- Mary on Dylan: There are many things I love about Dylan Landis’ writing, but particularly the blend of elegance and danger. Emotion in her stories is always beneath the surface. Her prose causes me great delight–the beauty of her word choices, her unique and compelling character descriptions. Dylan once mentioned to me something about not starting to describe something until she can “see the grout in the tiles.” I love that, and it’s evident in her writing. Dylan looks long and deep at things, and the precision of her description floors me.
- A Dylan Landis sampler: The Gospel of Angeline Yost is graven into desks with house keys and the blood of Bics; it is written in the glances of girls—low arcs of knowing that span the hallways and ping off the metal lockers (from “Rana Fegrina”). / She had the clipped walk of a person who pared herself to the essentials: muscle, bone, an eye for quality, calcium tablets for the nails, one pair of pumps, polished (from “Normal People Don’t Live Like This”). / Leah, home from school early, caught her mother in the act—fingers rustling in a Whitman’s Sampler, the box all bristly with pleated cups (from “Hate”).
If for some reason you can’t catch this must-attend reading, Dylan is doing two other readings this week: Tues 11/17 7pm at Cal State Long Beach (click on her name above for info); and then Sun 11/22 4pm at Village Books in Pacific Palisades (which includes a discussion on mother/daughter issues such as eating disorders, divorce, and teenage sex).
- A couple of real good readings at UCLA’s Hammer Museum: Wed 11/18 7pm, Tin House regular Yiyun Li; and Thurs 11/19 7pm, in a terrific pairing, two wonderful women and amazing short story writers, Dylan Landis and Mary Otis
- Dylan will be reading again later that week, Sun 11/22 4pm, at Village Books in Pacific Palisades; also at Village Books, LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan, Thurs 11/19 7:30, with a new book about Joe Papp and the Public Theater
- A good month also at the Central Library’s ALOUD Reading Series: Thurs 11/5 8pm, an evening with Orhan Pamuk (this event not at the Library, but at the Aratini/Japan America Theater); Mon 11/9 7pm, Rita Dove; and Tues 11/17 7pm, memoirist Mary Karr with her latest, Lit
- The last show of the year for the Chinatown reading series Vermin on the Mount, Sun 11/8 8pm, featuring Blake Nelson and Alex Espinoza among others
- The year’s last show, as well, for the New Short Fiction Series, Fri 11/18 8pm, a book launch for author Daniel A. Olivas’ new collection, Anywhere But LA
- Sat 11/14 4pm, Tod Goldberg reads from his new collection, Other Resort Cities, at Westwood’s Mystery Bookstore
- Stories Bookstore/Cafe in Echo Park co-sponsors Amiri Baraka, accompanied by live jazz, Sat 11/14 5pm, at The Echo
- Skylight Books in Los Feliz celebrates National Bookstore Day, Sat 11/7 2-4pm, which will feature folks from other area bookstores, including Doug Dutton of Dutton’s Books–a great way to celebrate bookstores past and present; Sat 11/14 5pm, Patrice Weitz with her debut, College Girl (Nick Flynn describes the novel’s heroine as “a philosopher of heartbreak and redemption”); and Sun 11/22 4pm, Michelle Huneven with her memoir Blame (10% of proceeds go toward the substance abuse center Phoenix House)
- And finally, at Book Soup: Thurs 11/5 9pm, intriguing for the title alone, Empty the Sun, a novel by Joseph Mattson (also reading at Vermin that Sunday), which includes a CD of music that inspired the book; Sun 11/8 1:30, Jonathan Safran Foer, with Eating Animals; Sun 11/15 6pm, noted rock critic Robert Hilburn (the only journalist to visit Folsom Prison with Johnny Cash) presents Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Life; and Mon 11/16 7:30, Book Soup takes care of sales at a rare local appearance by Barbara Kingsolver, reading from her new novel The Lacuna (this event is hosted by Writers Bloc and takes place at the Writer’s Guild)
Last night I went to a wonderful reading at Diesel Bookstore in Brentwood: Dylan Landis, reading from her new novel-in-stories, Normal People Don’t Live Like This. As a writer working on a novel-in-stories myself, one also centered on a difficult and complicated female character, and who’s been exposed to some of Dylan’s work, I have been keenly awaiting the arrival of this book.
Dylan read from the story “Underwater,” which revolves around, among other things, a charged friendship between the main character, teen-aged Leah, and her bad-girl friend Angeline. When Angeline brags to other girls how smart Leah is, “Leah glows as if Angeline has put a match to her.” They have one kind of dynamic in a group: “but when they are alone together Angeline is a knife under folds of silk and Leah can’t look away.”
More on Normal People Don’t Live Like This after I’ve had a chance to read the book cover to cover. Some of the stories have been previously published in journals like Tin House, Bomb, Night Train, Santa Monica Review, and St. Petersburg Review. The book has been praised by writers like Janet Fitch (White Oleander) and Elizabeth Strout (the Pulitzer-winning Olive Kitteridge).
- Skylight Books in Los Feliz has a busy month, including: 9/7 7:30 – Candacy Taylor, Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress; 9/10 7:30 – poet Kim Addonizio, Lucifer at the Starlite; 9/11 7:30 – Peter Gadol with his locally set novel Silver Lake; Sat 9/19 4pm – Skylight Literary Salon (wine & cheese & booktalk), this month looking at indie Graphic Novels; 9/20 5pm – Eileen Myles and her essay collection The Importance of Being Iceland; 9/24 7:30 – Stephen Elliott with his latest, The Adderall Diaries; plus two events featuring new titles from Chronicle Books, who regularly put out beautiful books; check the website and sign up for their newsletter
- If you haven’t yet visited Stories Bookstore/Cafe in Echo Park, this month presents a couple of good opportunities: an Open House Sat 9/12 6pm; or stop in Mon 9/14 7pm during the Taste of Echo Park; more events TBA; visit the website and sign up for their newsletter
- On Fri 9/11 8pm, the New Short Fiction Series features stories by Bibi Brock Davis, a long-time Contributing Editor at California Homes who has recently turned her hand to fiction, and with considerable success: winning the Southwest Writers Competition, and appearing in two University of California/ Irvine anthologies; become a fan on Facebook and help spread the word about this lively performance series; Beverly Hills Public Library, 444 N. Rexford Drive
- At Book Soup in West Hollywood: 9/3 9:30 – founding father of Black American cinema Melvin Van Peebles with Confessions of a Ex-Doofus Itchyfooted Mutha; 9/17 9:30 – David Cross, I Drink for a Reason; 9/27 4pm – Tao Lin, Shoplifting from American Apparel
- At Pasadena’s Vroman’s Bookstore: 9/3 7pm – Michelle Huneven with Blame; 9/15 7pm – California historian Kevin Starr with his latest, Golden Dreams
- I haven’t written too much here about Diesel Bookstore and their new store in the Brentwood Country Mart at 26th and San Vicente–in part because they’re just down the street from the old Dutton’s, and that’s still a fresh wound. But on Tues 9/22 7pm, they’re hosting an event that’s at the top of my September calendar: Dylan Landis reading from her new short story collection Normal People Don’t Live Like This. Her stories have been published in places like Tin House and Bomb; Vanity Fair recently hailed her characters as “blessedly extraordinary”; and 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout declares the book a “wonderful, intriguing, and original debut.”
- Last but not least, on Sun 9/27 6pm at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, Tongue & Groove closes out the month in style with a line-up that includes my teacher and mentor Lou Mathews