Total eclipse, Vermin on the Mount and ‘The Outsiders’ at 50

What to read during a solar eclipse. Vermin on the Mount enters its teen years. And at 50, “The Outsiders” finds new life in a special teen book club. Here’s what I’m jazzed about this week on the literary Web.

Total eclipse

The solar eclipse arrives on Monday, with its shudder-enducingly named path of totality stretching from Lincoln Beach, Ore., to Charleston, S.C. Here in Los Angeles, 681 miles away, we’ll still get a celestial phenomenon, but slightly dimmed — a partial eclipse.

What’s the difference? Lots of scientific stuff, probably, but if you’re looking to have the poetic differences of the experience parsed, Annie Dillard’s 1982 essay “Total Eclipse” is posted at the Atlantic.

According to Dillard, “Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane.” Her descriptions are gorgeous and completely terrifying — “it was as though an enormous, loping god in the sky had reached down and slapped the Earth’s face” — a good antidote for SoCal astronomy buffs suffering from total eclipse FOMO.

On Aug. 21, 2017, Los Angeles will see a partial eclipse.
On Aug. 21, 2017, Los Angeles will see a partial eclipse. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Vermin on the Mount

Reading series Vermin on the Mount has been a reliable hangout for discovering local and visiting authors for more than a decade; in fact, Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Book Show it celebrates its 13th anniversary.

Keeping any literary programming alive that long deserves serious props, and keeping the series fresh, as Vermin on the Mount does, is another category of accomplishment altogether. Celebrate with readers Sean Carswell, Nolan Knight, Kevin Maloney, Mari Naomi, Brian Jabas Smith and Désirée Zamorano. As ever, Los Angeles Times contributor and reading ringmaster Jim Ruland will host.

‘The Outsiders’ at 50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders,” and to honor it, I have a particularly deep and excellent cut. On Bright Reads, Medium’s educational publisher, Donnell Alexander reports on the novel’s appearance at a special teen book club. What makes it different? “In This Teen Book Club, ‘The Outsiders’ Leads to Talk of Boys and ICE.” The stakes are high, and this story is an inspiring one.

“Half the teens are terrified that the latest crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched since President Trump took office will tear their families apart,” writes Alexander. “The other half are contending with the potential loss of comrades-in-libros, while learning an indelible lesson about injustice.”

That “The Outsiders” can serve as a jumping-off point for political conversations in 2017 speaks to its enduring popularity; it also speaks to the particular power of books to engage and unite. Where do these kids find empathy and a call to action and common ground? The same place that so many readers do: over literature.

One of the teen book club members put it best: “You can talk about life through those books.”

From the mouths of babes. Stay gold, Ponyboy.

From the 1983 film adaptation of "The Outsiders."
From the 1983 film adaptation of "The Outsiders." (Associated Press)