As we descend into the hazy thick of summer, this week’s book events remind us that one day in a life has the power to change everything. Indeed, it’s all that ever changes anything. In the memoir corner, we have a traumatic encounter at the train station, a knock on the door of a rundown mansion, and the day a poverty-stricken kid joins Snoop Dogg’s football league. Painful or fortuitous, all the experiences lead to a richer engagement with life.
Two novels, one from a debut author and one from a Los Angeles powerhouse, make the same case for the power of chance events, calamitous and/or seemingly blessed. What happens when a passionate young poet in 1920s Russia meets Maxim Gorky? What happens when the power grid goes down and a man sets out to cross the dangerous country that separates him from his love? Short answer: They seize the moment. It’s a message we can all carry into our week: Carpe diem.
So seize the moment with these unmissable L.A. book events.
The Marble Faun brings Grey Gardens to Book Soup
As a curious teenager, Jerry Torre knocked on the door of a decrepit estate in East Hampton and met two women who would alter his path forever. Big Edie and Little Edie, the eccentric mother-daughter duo of “Grey Gardens,” Albert and David Maysles’ 1975 cult documentary, opened Torre’s mind to art, culture and the pleasures of liver pate and undercooked corn. Big Edie, a.k.a. Edith Bouvier Beale (and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ aunt), loved to cook for the teenage gardener (as memorialized in “Jerry Likes My Corn” from the “Grey Gardens” musical). Her daughter, meanwhile, affectionately called him “The Marble Faun” after a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. At Book Soup, Torre and his co-writer Tony Maietta, also on hand, will share stories from “The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens,” his memoir about his time with the Beales, the Maysles and Jackie O., whom he once took out clubbing (really).
7 p.m. Friday, July 12. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Free.
From Janet Fitch with love
As a college student in Leningrad, now known as St. Petersburg, Russia, Janet Fitch immersed herself in the other superpower’s brilliant literature and tumultuous history. Her lifelong obsession continues with “Chimes of a Lost Cathedral,” the follow-up to her 2017 tome, “The Revolution of Marina M.” At the start of “Chimes,” Marina Makarova is 19, alone and pregnant, wandering the Russian countryside amid the devastation from the Russian Civil War. Eventually she returns to Petrograd and takes care of homeless children but soon enough she is swept away to meet the greats of Russian literature, such as Maxim Gorky. He and other literary lights embrace Marina as a promising new poet. It’s a Russian fantasy for anyone who’s ever dreamed of meeting their heroes, centuries be damned.
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave. Free.
The softer side of the apocalypse
In her debut novel, “The Lightest Object in the Universe,” Kimi Eisele contemplates the transformative aspects of apocalypse – everything has a silver lining, right? After an economic disaster, a flu epidemic, climate devastation – and, as if that weren’t enough, the American power grid shuts down – the characters in Eisele’s story, Carson Waller and Beatrix Banks, get a chance to start over. One problem though: The two lovers are on opposite coasts. While Carson crosses the country to reunite, Beatrix immerses herself in reinventing America by reopening schools, tending gardens and launching a public radio station. There is a manipulative preacher to muck things up, but as far as ravaged hellscapes go, this one sounds pretty sweet. Ask her all about it at her reading at Vroman’s Bookstore.
7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16. Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Free.
One day, one life
In 2009, Pasadena resident Carla Rachel Sameth couldn’t find her pass on the Metro’s Gold Line. She was escorted off the train by a group of L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies, and roughly patted down. When she complained that the search was hurting her, one of the deputies slammed her head into a concrete column, severely breaking Sameth’s nose and injuring her head. Sameth eventually settled with L.A. County over the ordeal, but the trauma caused her to further examine aspects of her identity and family. As a queer Jewish mother to a biracial son, Sameth reflects on motherhood, single parenthood, blended families and addiction in her collection of linked essays, “One Day on the Gold Line: A Memoir in Essays,” which she will discuss at the Last Bookstore.
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17. The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St. Free.
The American dream, from Compton to Oxford
Growing up poor in Compton, Caylin Moore had the odds stacked against him. Raised by a single mother who escaped an abusive relationship with his father, and with gang members looking to recruit him, Moore, who often didn’t have enough to eat, barely allowed himself to imagine a life that transcended his circumstances. But as he recently told NBC’s “Good Morning America,” he feasted on hope, which led him to playing in a football league started by Snoop Dogg, getting a sports scholarship, and then eventually going to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. At age 25, Moore is contemplating a PhD in Urban Sociology and traveling the world to share his memoir, “A Dream Too Big.” At the LA84 Foundation, Moore will be sharing his story.
6 p.m. Thursday, July 18. LA84 Foundation, 2141 W. Adams Blvd. Free.