Here are six books (and book events) to which I'm especially looking forward: a preview of the writes of spring.
"The Flamethrowers" by Rachel Kushner
Rachel Kushner's first novel, "Telex From Cuba," was a sensation: Set in the years before the Cuban revolution, it was a national bestseller and a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award. Her follow-up, "The Flamethrowers," operates in the space between creativity and politics, the saga of an artist who travels from Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s to become immersed in the white hot center of Italian radical politics. Kushner is a vivid storyteller, worth reading for her sentences alone. But even more, read her because of her ambition, her ability to push the novel beyond the personal and into an engagement with the larger world.
Cheryl Strayed at Aloud
in conversation with Judith Lewis Mernit
Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" was the breakout bestseller of last year, a memoir of loss and reinvention and self-assertion by a writer who had been through hell and back. At 7:15 p.m. April 10, she will talk to High Country News contributing editor (and former LA Weekly features editor) Judith Lewis Mernit about the book and the writing life. Strayed is an inspirational figure, a by-the-bootstraps writer who has made a career almost by sheer force of will. Reserve early; this one is sure to fill up fast.
Los Angeles Central Library, free, http://www.lfla.org/aloud
"Bough Down" by Karen Green
This exquisite book is an impressionistic miracle, an assemblage of short text fragments and collages by an artist trying to make sense of her husband's suicide. That this husband was David Foster Wallace is beautifully beside the point, for the focus here is on the experience, the bleak and necessary journey of grief. Green is a pointed writer, open and at a distance all at once. The effect is unsettling, elliptical, necessarily open-ended and at times brutally revealing: a necessary explication of loss as a fact of daily life.
"Never Built Los Angeles" by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin
I can't wait for this: an art book featuring more than 400 images that offer a vision of the city Los Angeles never became, in the form of nearly a century's worth of plans, designs and layouts, including the Olmsted Brothers and Bartholomew's "Plan for the Los Angeles Region," a 1930 re-imagining of the city as a whole. Edited by architectural journalists Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, "Never Built Los Angeles" is also the source of an exhibition, curated by the editors, that will open this summer at the Architecture and Design Museum on Wilshire Boulevard.
"An Evening With David Sedaris"
David Sedaris is as close as literature comes to a touring rock band; his performances are eagerly anticipated, and he comes back every year. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than at UCLA's Royce Hall, which Sedaris has played, regularly, for the last 17 years. On Wednesday, May 1, at 8 p.m., he'll make his next appearance, in support of a new book of essays, "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls" (Little, Brown, April 23). If you've seen Sedaris do his thing, you know that he's hilarious and engaging; if you haven't, what are you waiting for?
Royce Hall, UCLA, http://cap.ucla.edu/
"Little Green" by Walter Mosley
When last we saw Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley's iconic detective, it looked as if he had come to an untimely end. That was in 2007, when the 10th Rawlins novel, "Blonde Faith," ended with a car crash, but six years later, Rawlins is back, the survivor that we always knew he was. Taking place in 1967, in the exploding counterculture of the Sunset Strip, "Little Green" allows Mosley to continue one of the great novelistic projects in Los Angeles literature, a multi-volume exploration of the city in the decades after World War II.