The world of letters suffered a staggering loss this week with the death of Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate for literature. As author Lynell George wrote, she “cleared a space for all of us to follow.”
Morrison once said that during tough times, “artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
With that in mind, Los Angeles offers us opportunities to heal through language, written and spoken — all in the warm embrace of our community. Here are six of the best area book events for the week ahead:
Strange magic. Rob Zabrecky, former frontman for alt-rock stars Possum Dixon and now a magician known to haunt the Magic Castle in Hollywood, has written “a punk poem to a forgotten Los Angeles,” according to Times writer Jessica Gelt. In his memoir, “Strange Cures,” Zabrecky brings back to life long-defunct clubs from the ’80s and ’90s such as the beloved Jabberjaw (where bands like Nirvana and Bikini Kill cut their teeth), an all-ages haven, he writes, “where John Waters and Lou Reed can be honored as kings and Keane big-eye paintings can be viewed as high art.” Zabrecky will read from “Strange Cures” at Book Soup.
4 p.m. Saturday at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd. Free.
War games, and goals. When South Pasadena native Jeff Henigson was 15, receiving treatment for brain cancer, the Starlight Children’s Foundation offered him a chance to fulfill one wish. He didn’t wish for a car or a special date with a crush. Instead, he asked to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev in the USSR and plead for nuclear disarmament and world peace. Henigson, who later worked for UNICEF and the United Nations, tells about his unusually ambitious childhood goals, including his desire to impress his distant father, in his memoir, “Warhead: The True Story of One Teen Who Almost Saved the World.” He’ll be in discussion at Vroman’s with Cara Mia Di Massa.
3 p.m. Saturday at Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. Free.
Happy Bicentennial Birthday, Herman Melville! For the big 2-0-0, Beyond Baroque is celebrating the author of “Moby-Dick” with a variety show stocked with odes and homages to Melville’s seafaring epic, including a performance of sea shanties by Steve Goldman, an enactment of Ray Bradbury’s screenplay adaptation with actors Greg Bell and Christina Linhardt, and a reading of D.H. Lawrence’s essay on the tome.
7:30 p.m. Sunday at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd. Venice. $10.
Gone but not forgotten. In “Chase Darkness with Me,” journalist Billy Jensen shares tools and rules for investigating unsolved murders. Those insights come from his experience identifying the Halloween Mask Murderer, discovering a missing girl in the California redwoods and helping finish the work of friend Michelle McNamara, whose pursuit of the Golden State Killer became the bestselling “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” published two years after McNamara’s sudden death. Jensen will be joined at Skylight Books by comedian Karen Kilgariff, fellow friend of McNamara and cohost of the popular podcast “My Favorite Murder.”
7:30 p.m.Tuesday at Skylight Books, 1814 N. Vermont Ave. Free.
What does being black mean? Chris L. Terry’s unnamed narrator grapples with that question in the author’s satirical second novel, “Black Card,” which Publishers Weekly compared to Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” A biracial punk musician living in Richmond, Va., the story’s protagonist changes up his style and speech in an attempt to earn his “black card” — an actual card — from his mentor. Terry will celebrate the publication of “Black Card” at Eso Won Books.
6 p.m. Tuesday at Eso Won Books, 4327 Degnan Blvd. Free.
Trick mirror revealed. Rebecca Solnit calls her “the best young essayist at work in the United States,” and Zadie Smith says her book “filled me with hope.” New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino has earned this praise for her first collection of essays, “Trick Mirror,” which riffs on our hypercapitalist, internet-obsessed age with humor and acuity. “Trick Mirror,” as it peers into wedding culture, millennial scam artists and the sacred properties of mind-altering drugs, balances optimism and open-eyed frankness. As she said in a recent interview, “nothing matters, but that seems like just as much an impetus to try your best and try to have fun as anything else.” Tolentino’s recent reading in New York had a line down the block, so expect a good crowd at Skylight Books.
7:30 p.m. Thursday at Skylight Books, 1814 N. Vermont Ave. Free.