December 17, 2018

A plan for autumn author readings

This fall brings an especially lively assortment of books and authors to Southern California bookstores, ranging from masters of literary fiction to members of the glitterati, and at least one music superstar whose book-signing promises to draw a record-breaking crowd.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest and long-anticipated novel “Here I Am” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), is a brilliant speculation about the fate of one Jewish family and the whole of the Jewish people. Ranging from raw sexual imaginings to moments of undeniable moral grandeur, Foer addresses such lofty topics as the existence (or nonexistence) of God and the survival of the Jewish homeland, but what drives the story is his compelling account of the slow-motion collapse of the Bloch family, a tale that both shocks us and makes us laugh out loud. Foer will speak about and sign copies of his book at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at Zipper  Concert Hall at the Colburn School, 200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. For tickets, visit

Litfolks L.A. is a writer’s collective that fully embodies the diversity of voices and cultures on the Southern California literary scene, and Chevalier’s Bookstore is one of L.A.’s landmark literary venues. At 7 p.m. Sept.29, Litfolks L.A. and Chevalier’s will present a conversation among Aya de Leon, author of a “debut feminist heist novel” titled “Uptown Thief” (Dafina); Bryan Allen Fierro, author of “Dodger Blue Will Fill Your Soul” (University of Arizona Press); Minal Hajratwala, author of “Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment” (The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective); Dana Johnson, author of the short story collection “In the Not Quite Dark” (Counterpoint); Karen Palmer, author of the novels “All Saints” and “Border Dogs”; and Margaret Wappler, author of the novel “Neon Green” (The Unnamed Press). Chevalier’s is located at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles.

The title of Linda Thompson’s new memoir says it all: “A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between” (Dey Street Books). An award-winning songwriter and someone intimately familiar with a passel of famous figures, she tells her own story with winning candor and grace. Indeed, Thompson’s life and career represent one especially glittering version of the American dream, but she is willing to open her heart to her readers. Thompson will present and sign copies of “A Little Thing Called Life” at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at Book Soup, 1818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 

Stacy Schiff, who won a Pulitzer for her biography of Cleopatra, turns her attention to an equally famous chapter in history in “The Witches: Salem, 1692” (Back Bay Books). We may think we know the story already — “our national nightmare, the undercooked, overripe tabloid episode, the dystopian chapter in our past,” as she puts it — but Schiff allows us to see where the terror originated and how deeply rooted it is in our national character, even now. Schiff will be featured in conversation with journalist Caitlin Flanagan by Writers Bloc at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Laemmle Music Hall Theater, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Tickets can be purchased at

The Boss looks back on a career that carried him from frontman for a scrappy bar band in New Jersey to a global music legend in “Born to Run” (Simon & Schuster). “I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I,” writes Bruce Springsteen. “One of the questions I’m asked over and over again by fans on the street is, ‘How do you do it?’ I will try to shed a little light on how and, more important, why.” Springsteen and his book will be featured in a special event at noon Oct. 3 at Barnes & Noble at Farmers Market, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. While I fear that finding a place to stand in the bookstore aisles will be as hard as a snagging a spot near the stage for one of his stadium shows, fans can all (323) 525-0270 to find out.

Biographer and critic Ruth Franklin found her way to a wealth of unpublished source material about one of the most distinctive tellers of psychological horror stories, and she reveals what she found in “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life” (Liveright). Jackson is best known for such classics of the genre as “The Lottery” and “The Haunting of Hill House,” but Franklin argues that her work reveals something profound about the American state of mind and belongs in the loftiest rank of the American literary canon. Franklin will discuss her biography of Jackson at 4 p.m. Oct. 23 at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.

JONATHAN KIRSCH, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.