Alix Ohlin at Skylight Books

OK, I’ve been bad lately about getting to my monthly literary calendar. As in: I haven’t posted one for nearly a year. Sorry. And thanks to those who missed my posts and inquired.

I nearly got my act together earlier this month because I wanted to help promote Steve Almond‘s appearance at Skylight Books with his new story collection God Bless America (which includes “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched,” featured in the most recent Best American Short Stories). And now comes along one of my very favorite short story writers, Alix Ohlin, appearing tomorrow (June 21, 7:30) at Skylight Books with both a new novel and a new story collection. I discovered Ohlin in the 2005 edition of Best American Short Stories–her story “Simple Exercises for the Beginning Student” is a small miracle. I then went on to read and review her collection Babylon & Other Stories.

Ohlin’s new collection, Signs and Wonders, is drawing praise from the likes of Joy Williams, Richard Bausch and Jim Shepard. And the new novel, Inside, was just named Book of the Week by none other than Oprah. She’s deservedly getting a lot of press these days, including this nice write-up in The Globe and Mail. Along with Richard Ford, she was featured earlier this week on the new Los Angeles Review of Books show on KCRW.


Literary LA March ’10

  • 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).

More Literary LA Aug ’09

Two late additions to the local literary calendar:

  • Thurs 8/20, 7:30pm – Skylight Books in Los Feliz presents Dave Eggers reading from and signing his Hurricane Katrina novel, Zeitoun
  • Sun 8/30, 6pm – at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood (1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga), Tongue & Groove presents the worth-the-price- of-admission-alone Mary Otis (her book Yes, Yes, Cherries is a must for short story lovers), along with fellow New Short Fiction Series alum Larry Fondation; as well as Janet Sarbanes and Antonio Sacre

Literary LA August ’09

  • Stories Bookstore/Cafe in Echo Park kicks off the month in fine fashion, Sat 8/01 8pm, hosting Richard Lange (whose story collection Dead Boys won much praise) with his new LA noir, This Wicked World–poet John Tottenham (Inertia Variations) also reads; Sun 8/09, internet radio station DUBLAB broadcasts live from the store all day (I’m listening now, and it’s all over the place, in a good way); that’s an indication of the wildly eclectic programming at Stories, which includes: Storytime for kids most Wednesday mornings (next session Aug 5 10:30am); tarot card readings Thursday nights; and on Fridays, live music in the morning, and knitting at night; sign up for their newsletter, and check out their expanding cafe offerings (open 8am weekdays)
  • at Book Soup in West Hollywood: on Sat 8/01, early hits of culture musical (Patti Smith at noon) and filmic (Werner Herzog at 5pm); Mon 8/10 7pm, what promises to be a terrific reading from the self-proclaimed pulpy litmag Hobart, featuring Tod Goldberg (whose second Burn Notice book is out, and whose new story collection Other Resort Cities is due out soon on Other Voices), and Alicia Gifford (Night Train fiction editor, and a fine writer herself)
  • at Los Feliz’ Skylight Books: Tues 8/11 7:30pm, the scarily prolific William Vollmann with Imperial, his look at the tangled border between California and Mexico; Sat 8/22 5pm, Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens, the Frank Oppenheimer story, as told by K.C. Cole (a terrific popular science writer, whose Hole in the Universe introduced me to cosmology and quantum physics); and throughout the summer, Skylight offers ‘Hot Summer Nights,’ staying open till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Fri 8/14 8pm, the New Short Fiction Series, LA’s live literary magazine, presents its annual Emerging Writers Showcase–this year featuring six writers, including two from my writers group, Susan Lindheim and J. Ryan Stradal
  • on Sun 8/16 7pm, Cedering Fox’s WordTheatre presents “Thrill or Peril,” tales of adventure read by their author, or by notable actors like Sarah Clarke and Xander Berkeley; at the M Bar
  • the following Sunday, 8/23, the Chinatown reading series Vermin on the Mount (so many worthy authors have read there I can’t begin to name them) celebrates their 5-year anniversary
  • finally, the Deborah Geffner-directed production of John Patrick Shanley’s “Beggars in the House of Plenty” at Theatre 68 continues until Aug 16–I thought it was terrific; and it just got a stellar review from StageSceneLA

Literary LA June ’09

  • Echo Park’s new bookstore/cafe Stories kicks off the month with Mark Blake’s The Wit & Wisdom of Keith Richards on Fri 6/5 8pm (complete w/ dj’s spinning Stones tunes); and on Sat 6/6 8pm, also in a musical vein, Gooseberries, photographer Sterling Andrews’ trippy photos of Silverlake/Echo Park bands like the Silversun Pickups; Sat 6/13 8pm, live bluegrass on the back patio; poetry on the 2nd & 4th Friday, 8pm; sign up for the Stories newsletter for more happenings
  • Another packed month at Skylight Books in Los Feliz: noted short story writer Mary Yukari Waters (who’s garnered just about every honor a short story can get–Pushcart, O. Henry, two Best American collections) presents The Favorites, her first novel, Sat 6/6 5pm; on Sun 6/7 5pm, Francesca Lia Block with her newest; Ron Carlson on Sat 6/13 7:30pm with The Signal; on Wed 6/17 7:30pm, graphic novelists Adriane Tomine & Seth; and on Sun 6/21 5pm, Luna frontman Dean Wareham with Black Postcards
  • June’s New Short Fiction Series show (Fri 6/12 8pm) features the stories of Kate Milliken–a finalist for both the Katherine Anne Porter Award and the Other Voices Prize. I spent the weekend reading some of her stories and she is excellent. (In the first version of this post I wrote, incorrectly, that none of her stories are available online.  Go here for links to a couple, and for my interview with her.)
  • Book Soup on the Sunset Strip has Dennis Cooper (Ugly Man) on Tues 6/2 7pm; on Mon 6/15 7pm Tin House Editor Rob Spillman, along with Laila Lalami and Chris Abani, present Gods & Soldiers, an anthology of new African writing; and on Sun 6/28 5pm, Carol Ruiz Zafron with his latest, The Angel’s Game

News from New Short Fiction Alums

The New Short Fiction Series monthly showcases the fiction of West Coast writers, performed by local actors of screen & stage. The Series has in the past featured notable writers such as Aimee Bender, Tod Goldberg, and Gina Ochsner. Here’s what some recent alums have been up to:

  • storySouth‘s Most Notable Online Stories 2008 includes both Alicia Gifford (’08) for her story “Lobster Girl” in Smokelong Quarterly; and Thaila Ramanujam (’09) for her story “Life is Awesome” in Cha (which won for best new online magazine)
  • Laila Lalami (’06) is out with her first novel, Secret Son (she is previously the author of the collection Hope & Other Dangerous Pursuits), which she will be reading from at Skylight Books on Thurs May 14, 7:30
  • and Larry Fondation (twice featured) will be part of Skylight‘s “LA Noir” night Thurs May 7, 7:30

This Friday, May 8 at 8pm, the Series presents “Cake & Other Stories” by Patrick Tobin.

Literary LA–May ’09

Busy month:

  • On Friday 5/8 at 8pm, the New Short Fiction Series features the fiction of Patrick Tobin, who has been widely published in journals including AGNI, Kenyon Review, Gulf Stream, and the Dave Eggers-edited Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008. Check out his website for some of his stuff.
  • Skylight Books in Los Feliz is packed this month: an LA noir night on Thurs 5/7–on Thurs 5/14, Laila Lalami (popular “Moorish Girl” blogger) with her debut novel Secret Son–Sat 5/16, the monthly Salon at 4 (an informal chat about independent press releases), and at 7:30, Eric Bogosian–Sunday 5/17 at 7, Jennifer Mathews (an anthropologist focusing on Mexico) with Chicle, her learned but punchy history of chewing gum–Sat 5/23 at 5, Dalkey Archive’s Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction

  • Stories, the new bookstore/cafe in Echo Park, hosts a bluegrass night on their back patio with the Watertower Bucket Boys (and their own homemade veggie chili) Sat 5/16, 7pm–Thurs 5/28, 7:30, Justin and Melissa Gage’s Memphis and the Delta Blues Trail–and Thurs 5/28 – Sat 5/30, a special exhibit of art work by children with autism–plus:  ongoing series that include the Hollywood Institute of Poetics (HIP) hosting a poetry reading on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month; and at 10:30am on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday, story & song for the kids–and remember, they’re now open at 8am with organic coffee and a range of breakfast items
  • Book Soup in West Hollywood showcases the indie press Akashic (with Achy Obejas and others) on Friday 5/8–and on Tues 5/26, the provocative music writer Elijah Wald with How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll

  • On Sunday May 10, join Word Theatre for a Mother’s Day brunch & reading at Warszawa in Santa Monica
  • That same night at 6pm, Tongue & Groove hosts the 2009 PEN Emerging Voices at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood
  • 826la hosts a fundraising screening of the new Sam Mendes-directed, Dave Eggers-penned film “Away We Go” on Thurs 5/7 at the Vista (with Mendes, Eggers, and star John Krasinski present)
  • On Wed 5/27, the Hammer Reading Series presents Glen David Gould (Carter Beats the Devil) with his new novel Sunnyside

Literary LA–March

Late on this post, and already missed a few things, but here’s some of what’s coming up:

  • New Short Fiction Series – Friday March 13, 8pm, at the Beverly Hills Public Library: stories by Vincent Precht, who has been published in TriQuarterly, Indiana Review, and Cutbank among other places. Says Mary Yukari Waters, “He makes us feel passionately for each one of his characters.” Samples of his writing can be found at his blog. Admission $10.
  • As usual, a rich offering of events at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. You missed Jerry Stahl and Russell Banks; but on the 11th can still catch Zoe Heller (Notes on a Scandal); and on Saturday the 21st at 4pm, check out their monthly Literary Salon, this month featuring Noir & Thrillers.
  • And be sure to visit LA’s newest bookstore, Stories (on Sunset in Echo Park). One of the events not listed on the website (sign up for their newsletter to get all the info) is a new twice-a-month poetry series called Easy Speak, the first, on Friday March 20 8pm, hosted by my good friend Doug Knott.

New at Skylight Books

  • This weekend, Nov 1 & 2, Skylight Books in Los Angeles’s Los Feliz neighborhood (1818 N. Vermont Ave) celebrates 12 years in business. Discounts: reach in and win a discount of anywhere from 12% to 84% (get it? all intervals of 12?). Prizes. Refreshments: cake-cutting and wine both days at 3.
  • Saturday, Nov 15, 4pm, check out the latest installment of the Skylight Literary Salon, a monthly wine & cheese gathering showcasing the best of small and independent presses. This month, the Skylight staff tell us what’s new and exciting in the vital and thriving world of graphic novels (which some describe as independent film-making, but in a book). Featured presses are Viz Media, Avatar Press, and Drawn & Quarterly.
Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Salon at Skylight Books

Still mourning the closing of Dutton’s Bookstore earlier this year, last week I was trying to find a local store through which I could order a couple of debut story collections from friends of mine (more on that later), both out on small presses. Book Soup in West Hollywood is a fine bookstore (I bought a few books there yesterday), but they don’t do much with small presses. So I was thrilled to see how thorough the buyer at Skylight Books in Los Feliz was in trying to track down these books.

I was even more thrilled to find out about the Skylight Literary Salon, a monthly gathering the third Saturday of the month at 4pm (complete with wine & cheese) where staff members present their favorite finds among the small presses. Typically three presses are showcased; sometimes an author or editor stops by. This month’s Salon (on the fourth Saturday because of the holiday) features PM Press, Soft Skull Press, and St. George Press (whose founding editor, Alex Rose, has a story in the new Ploughshares).

Skylight Manager Monica Carter (whose own blog, Salonica, focuses on international literature) has been happy to see the turn-out grow each month: from a dozen earlier in the year to 25 last month. Moreover, as featured small press titles are designated as staff picks, they begin to sell, and small press ordering has gone up. She feels it’s incumbent upon independent bookstores to “differentiate from what Amazon and the chains have to offer,” to be “champions for small presses.” (As a former owner of a small bookstore, I can attest it takes real commitment to walk that talk: it’s so much easier to stick with ordering from the big distributors who by-pass the small presses.) Her own personal finds of late include: A Happy Man and Other Stories by Axel Thormahlen (Les Figues Press) and I’d Like by Amanda Michalopoulou (Dalkey Archive Press).

So support small presses and a great independent bookstore, and maybe find a new writer to get excited about: Saturday, September 27, 4pm, Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles. (For more info contact monica[at]skylightbooks[dot]com)

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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