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September 7, 2011

Eclectic Fare Reflects L.A.’s Vibrant Lit Scene

http://www.jewishjournal.com/twelve_twelve/article/eclectic_fare_reflects_las_vibrant_lit_scene_20110907

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

Author tours are not what the used to be, and bookstore closings are reducing the number of venues where you can meet writers face to face. But the offerings for this fall season turn out to be remarkably rich, diverse and likely to prove memorable — an encouraging sign of the sheer vigor of the literary scene in Southern California.

When Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer and single mother, signed up with a private military contractor to serve as a human rights investigator in Sarajevo, she thought she would be paid well to do good in a place where help was badly needed. As Bolkovac and her co-author Cari Lynn write in “The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman’s Fight for Justice” (Palgrave Macmillan: $16), she found herself in an underworld of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and when she courageously revealed the truth, she was fired and physically threatened. Her account of wrongdoing implicates the United Nations and the U.S. State Department and paints a heartbreaking picture of how young women can be victimized by their supposed protectors. Cari Lynn will discuss “The Whistleblower” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, at Barnes & Noble at The Grove at Farmers Market, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles.

Janet Reitman has gone where others fear to tread in “Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: $28), a critical history of the controversial organization and its founder, the former science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.  She calls it “America’s least understood new faith,” and she shows in colorful and sometimes shocking detail how Scientology was transformed from a self-help movement into a world religion and a cultural powerhouse, all thanks to its founder and his no-less-willful successor. Tom Cruise figures prominently in the book, of course, but there are plenty of other shocks and sensations. Reitman will discuss and sign her book at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16, at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz.

Scott Wannberg.  Photo by Sheree Rose

If you ever shopped at the beloved, late Dutton’s Brentwood Books, then you knew the late Scott Wannberg, even if you were not aware of his reputation as a post-Beat poet of renown. Scott worked as a bookseller at Dutton’s and dispensed sage, if sometimes idiosyncratic, advice to thousands of us over the years. His oeuvre as a poet is considerable, if also slightly obscure: “It was a stream-of-consciousness kind of Chick Hearn-meets-Charles Bukowski narrative,” writer Rip Rense said, “about friends and current events, heavily laced with references to Sam Peckinpah movies and neighborhood dogs.” And Wannberg’s death last month came as a shock and a heartbreak. But I am confident in predicting that the memorial to be held at Beyond Baroque promises to be a suitable send-off — “a wild and wooly party to share memories, console, grieve, drink, dance and generally raise the roof in memory of the amazing Mr. Mumps” — and a memorable event in the literary history of Los Angeles. The party starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, at Beyond Baroque, 681 N. Venice Blvd., Venice.

You can lend your own voice to a marathon reading of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” at the Westside outpost of Libros Schmibros that has opened at the Hammer Museum in Westwood. The event is linked to a current Hammer exhibition of artwork by Ed Ruscha on the theme of Kerouac’s classic, and a new iPad application based on the famous book that has been released by its publisher, Viking Press. Libros Schmibros, a bookstore and lending library founded by literary impresario David Kipen, is headquartered in Boyle Heights, but the reading of “On the Road” starts at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood.

England in the 19th century had the Bronte sisters, but we’ve got the Ephrons. Amy Ephron, for example, is a novelist (“One Sunday Morning” and “A Cup of Tea”), a digital publishing entrepreneur (oneforthetable.com) and a widely published magazine journalist. Her latest book is “Loose Diamonds … and other things I’ve lost (and found) along the way” (William Morrow: $19.99), a collection of vignettes that trace her life experiences from childhood and adolescence through marriage, parenthood, divorce and remarriage. The tales are variously charming, funny, poignant and even hair-raising, as when she finds herself spending an afternoon with Manson family alumna Squeaky Fromme. Ephron will speak about her book at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, at Diesel, A Bookstore, at the Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Brentwood.

Turner Classic Movies was running a Cary Grant mini-festival not long ago, and that’s all it took to remind me of his iconic role in American movies. Now we can hear about him from someone who knew him intimately. Dyan Cannon recalls her fairytale courtship and rocky marriage in “Dear Cary: My Life With Cary Grant” (It Books: $25.99), and the book is richly populated with other members of the Hollywood aristocracy of the golden age, ranging from Noël Coward to Audrey Hepburn. Cannon will make a personal appearance to present and autograph her memoir at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26, at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.

Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is book editor of The Jewish Journal. He blogs on books at jewishjournal.com/twelvetwelve and can be reached at books@jewishjournal.com.

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