January 19, 2020

A smorgasbord of literary delights at L.A. Times book festival

Now the largest and one of the longest-running book events in the United States, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books opens for its 21st outing over the weekend of April 21-23 on the USC campus.

Once again, more than 150,000 book-lovers are expected to join hundreds of authors and performers for interviews, panel discussions, poetry readings, storytelling, musical performances, book-browsing, food and drink, and — always the real and irreplaceable draw — the opportunity to mingle with other ardent book-lovers.

The Festival of Books opens on the evening of April 21 with the presentation of the Los Angeles Times Book Awards, now in their 37th year and emceed this year by comedian, actor and writer Tig Notaro.

The recipient of the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement by a Western writer will be presented to novelist Thomas McGuane, whose books include “Ninety-two in the Shade,” “Driving on the Rim” and, most recently, “Crow Fair.”  (The award is named after my late father, who served as the daily book critic for the Times for more than 30 years, and I will be presenting the award to McGuane at the ceremony.)

Other winners will be announced at the prize ceremony, including the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Innovator’s Award and the newly established Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose.

At 10 a.m. on April 22, the USC Trojan Marching Band will kick off the festivities with a performance by the 300-member ensemble. At the same time, former L.A. Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez, author of one of the classics of Los Angeles literature, “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.,” will mount the Poetry Stage to read from his latest book of poetry, “Borrowed Bones.” The choice between a musical extravaganza and a soaring lyrical moment represents the remarkable diversity of the Festival of Books.

Celebrity participants, literary and otherwise, will include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (“Writings on the Wall”), Ron Kovic (“Born on the Fourth of July” and “Hurricane Street”), Cheech Marin (“Cheech Is Not My Real Name … But Don’t Call Me Chong!”), Margaret Atwood (“Hag-Seed: William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ Retold”), Francine Prose (“Mister Monkey: A Novel”), Joyce Carol Oates (“Lives of the Twins” and “A Book of American Martyrs”), Bryan Cranston (“A Life in Parts”), Tippi Hedren (“Tippi: A Memoir”), MSNBC’s Chris Hayes (“A Colony in a Nation”) and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt (“GOP 5.0: Republican Renewal Under President Obama”).

Local authors with national reach are well represented in the schedule of events, including T.C. Boyle (“The Terranauts”), T. Jefferson Parker (“Crazy Blood”), Mona Simpson (“Casebook: A Novel”), Leslie Klinger (“Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted,” co-edited by Laura Caldwell) and Susan Straight (“The Shipwreck Bed”).

The programming includes some surprising and illuminating moments. Rock star Dave Grohl is featured in conversation with his mother, Virginia Hanlon Grohl, about her new book, “From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars.” Best-selling author Lisa See (“The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane”), daughter of the late and beloved novelist Carolyn See, will be in conversation on a subject she knows well: “Everybody’s Got One: Fiction and Families.” And Leo Braudy, author of “Haunted: On Ghosts, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Monsters of the Natural and Supernatural Worlds,” is participating in a timely panel titled “What Are We So Afraid Of? The Role of Fear in Our Lives.”

Complete scheduling information and advance tickets for these and dozens of other events at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books are available at events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks.

JONATHAN KIRSCH, is book editor of the Jewish Journal, will moderate an April 22 panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on “Biography: The Artist as Muse,” featuring Ross King, Donna Seaman and Lawrence Weschler.