February 25, 2020

Five top summer books and where to meet the authors

Perhaps the best evidence that the baby boomers remain a crucial element of the publishing industry is the fact that so many summer books invite us to take a look back at the 1960s. Here are three authors who have something to say about that uproarious era, as well as two younger authors with surprising books about the precocious coming out of two literary lions and auto-mobile activism in Saudi Arabia. And you can meet all of them in person at upcoming events in Southern California.

Long a gloried mover and shaker in the music industry, Danny Goldberg knows whereof he speaks in his iconoclastic history of American popular culture, “In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea” (Akashic Books).

Based on his own exhaustive research, including interviews with luminaries ranging from Allen Ginsberg to Baba Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert), the book drills deeply into sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, and much else besides. Goldberg, for example, seeks an explanation for all of the disparate events and personalities of that seminal year — the year he (and I) graduated from high school — which included the debut albums of the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, the Summer of Love in San Francisco, the murder of Che Guevara and the Six-Day War.

Goldberg will talk about his book at 7 p.m. June 14 at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.

Yet another way to approach the social, cultural and political turmoil of the ’60s is offered in Michael Leahy’s “The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers” (Harper), a history of the Dodgers as seen through the experiences of seven key players: Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Wes Parker, Jeff Torborg, Tommy Davis, Dick Tracewski and Lou Johnson.

The book has been honored as a finalist for the 2017 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing and has been received enthusiastically by Dodgers fans, but the book really transcends the sports genre. To his credit, Leahy has found a way to use the team as a lens through which to see and understand the stresses that were shaping an entire era.

Leahy will discuss and sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. June 23 at Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.

Tracy Peacock Tynan, the child of theater critic Kenneth Tynan and novelist Elaine Dundy, grew up in the Swinging ’60s in the upper reaches of British cultural aristocracy, a scene that she evokes with wit and color in “Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life” (Simon & Schuster).

She was named after the character her godmother, Katharine Hepburn, played in “The Philadelphia Story.” Her own sensibilities, no less than the attire of her famous parents and their cronies, moved her in the direction of fashion, and she grew up to be not only a costume designer but something of a female version of Beau Brummell.

Tynan will present and sign copies of her book on at 7 p.m. July 11 at Barnes & Noble on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

Gertrude Stein, a Jewish lesbian intellectual, was an unlikely prospect for enduring literary fame, a fact that inspired Jeff Solomon to ask why both Stein and Truman Capote chose to come out in an era when other gay public figures were closeted. He answers the question in “So Famous and So Gay: The Fabulous Potency of Truman Capote and Gertrude Stein” (University of Minnesota Press), a high-spirited work of scholarship that explores celebrity gossip as well as more conventional archival sources to paint a vivid portrait of two landmark personalities.

Solomon will discuss and sign copies of his book at 5 p.m. July 8 at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.

Nowadays, a woman behind the wheel of a car is a human rights issue in Saudi Arabia, as we learn in “Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening” (Simon & Schuster), a remarkable new memoir by Manal al-Sharif. She was arrested and imprisoned for “driving while female,” an experience that changed her from a devout housewife and mother into a women’s rights activist in a place where the risks of protesting can be grave. 

Forcibly circumcised at the age of 8, she was forced to seek her father’s consent to study at King Abdulaziz University and to take a job at Aramco, where she found herself to be the only woman in the information technology department. When she dared to drive a car in the kingdom, she discovered that “if you want to race with men, you’d have to do it with your hands and legs cut off.”

Al-Sharif will be featured in conversation with NPR’s “All Things Considered” co-host Kelly McEvers at 7:15 p.m. June 21 in the Aloud program of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles at L.A.’s Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St. For tickets and information, call (213) 228-7500 or visit lfla.org.

JONATHAN KIRSCH is the book editor of the Jewish Journal.