Friday, January 22, 2021

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

Print This Article

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 [email protected].

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.

Select list(s) to subscribe to

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Essays and Columns of 2020

Latest Articles


Latest Articles

Virtual 90th-Birthday Event Honors Marion Wiesel’s Support of Ethiopian Jewry

The celebration, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, will honor her living legacy, including her visionary work alongside her late husband.

Is the California Dream Fading Away?

In a reverse Gold Rush, many Californians have already been voting with their feet.

Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, 88

Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, a giant in the Jewish community and a champion of human and civil rights passed away peacefully on January 6,...

Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month — and the 11 Other Months of the Year

If an organization’s goal is to establish one inclusive month on an annual basis, I think they have missed the point.

State Department Cuts Ties With Islamic Charity Over Allegations of Anti-Semitism

The State Department cut ties with the Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) charity on January 19 after the charity had been plagued with allegations of...



More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.