Eras Colliding: Patton Oswalt at ALOUD

Before Patton Oswalt became a beloved fixture in comedy, film, and television, including roles in Young Adult, Big Fan, and Ratatouille, he was obsessively watching classic movies at the legendary New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. Discussing his new memoir which takes the reader on a journey into the mind of a film buff, next week Patton will join ALOUD at the Writers Guild Theater for a familial and likely irreverent conversation with his brother and fellow film fanatic, Matt Oswalt. Before the Oswalts take the stage, we caught up with Patton about his addiction to the big screen, books, and his 1.75 million Twitter followers.

 

You’ve watched a lot of films at the New Beverly Cinema, but you also watch films at library programs. What’s the importance of watching films in a communal setting for you? How does a library screening differ from other cinematic experiences?
Patton:
Watching films in a communal setting adds a subconscious dimension to the movie that no one—not the director, writers, actors, and not even each individual audience member anticipated would be a part of the experience. Something that you’d shrug your shoulders at watching alone—or that a director, writer and actor conceived and executed as a means to get from point A to point B—can suddenly become a laugh, or a scream, or a groan of exasperation to an audience, wired together emotionally in the dark.

Watching a film in a library adds another aspect—the feeling of eras colliding and battling each other. You’re surrounded by books, which used to be movies for the masses, and there they sit, like tombstones, while up there on the screen is a moving glow which pushed those books further back into the shadows. Very dramatic, if you’re in the right mind for it.

Although your main passion is film, you are also very literary—you’ve written two books and you took part in the Library Foundation’s Moby Dick project last year. What role did books play in your life growing up—and did they influence your love of film?
Patton: Books were a comfortable bolt-hole out of reality, and prepared me to be comfortable with looking through different windows at the way someone who wasn’t me interpreted reality. Any window—page of a book, comic panel, painting canvas, cathode ray tube, movie screen—the mind wants an expanded horizon.

You are very active on Twitter, yet you recently took a break from it. Do you think such forms of communication enhance or pose a threat to the way we use language today?
Patton:
Any new form of communication can enhance the world we live in—ask the people in Tahrir Square if they think Twitter is a threat—but, like anything, it can get misused or, worse, replace life. There are just as many people who have fallen into the pages of books and never re-emerged as have dissolved their consciousnesses online.

You often take your daughter to the Los Angeles Public Library. Can you talk about your visits to the Library? Why is the Library important to you as a father?
Patton:
I never go with a specific thing I want to do or don’t want to do. Mainly I like her seeing people excited to get into the stacks, to thumb through pages, to brush up against other minds. The looks on the faces of the freaks, waiting by the main entrance with their notebooks and pages and manifestos? It’s like I’m taking her to see a vanishing species.

An Evening with Patton Oswalt
Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film
In conversation with writer and director (and brother) Matt Oswalt

Friday, January 23, 7:30 PM
Writers Guild Theater

Tickets: lfla.org/aloud

Author Chang-rae Lee Talks Alternate Realities at ALOUD

From The Surrendered to Native Speaker, novelist Chang-rae Lee has been hailed for his beautifully crafted character portraits of Asians grappling with race, class, and identity divisions of contemporary society. His latest novel, On Such a Full Sea, is no different thematically, although it’s a fiercely imagined story set in a chilling near-future America, where abandoned post-industrial cities have been converted into forced labor colonies populated with immigrant workers. Lee’s shift to a dystopian world is a bold move for such a masterful writer of realism, but his introspective prose offers a welcomed elevation to the ever-popular field of apocalyptic storytelling. Before he takes the ALOUD stage on Thursday, January 15th for a conversation with the story-bending author Charles Yu (How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe), we talked to Lee about Bladerunner, The Odyssey, libraries, and what inspired his alternative reality.

Your new novel is rooted in a dystopian America although your past novels are set mostly in reality. Can you talk about this shift in writing modes and where the idea for this dystopian world came from?
Lee:
I didn’t originally plan to write a ‘dystopian’ fiction or in fact anything speculative. But I had this very strange idea for a story about re-populating abandoned urban areas of America with former factory workers from China, who would emigrate en masse and settle and ‘revitalize’ forlorn neighborhoods in places like Detroit and Baltimore. Of course nothing of the sort could ever happen in our present reality, so I decided to set the story in the future, though in a future with very different social conditions.

Can you talk more about those cities that inspired this imagined place?
Lee:
In fact Baltimore was the inspiration, as I’d seen, over many years, this particular forlorn neighborhood from the train while traveling between NYC and Washington D.C.; the novel is set in ‘B-Mor’, a once proud city that is now a massive production facility/settlement, where the worker inhabitants grow pristine fish and vegetables for an elite ‘Charter’ class.

Los Angeles has often been the setting for dystopian stories in books, and especially films like the cult classic Bladerunner. Are there any films or books that influenced On Such a Full Sea?
Lee:
Bladerunner is one of my very favorite films — in fact I wrote part of my undergraduate senior thesis on the film, focusing on the question of genre in both art and identity. But I would say that if there’s any significant influence for OSAFS it would have to be The Odyssey, which is a narrative of adventure and discovery of strange peoples, lands, and of course, of self.

Since ALOUD takes place at the Los Angeles Public Library, we’re curious if you have any personal connections to public libraries?
Lee:
I spent much of my childhood in libraries, as my mother would leave me and my younger sister at the local library on weekend afternoons and pick us up before dinner. She was an immigrant and never felt comfortable guiding us on what to read but believed in the importance of reading, and so she left us in the care of the librarians. They were always wonderful and kind, very eager to help, something for which I’ll always be grateful.

Make your free reservation for Lee’s upcoming ALOUD program here.

Main image: Chang-rae Lee (credit: Anika Lee), and cover art for On Such a Full Sea

12 Months of the Los Angeles Public Library

Every year thousands of Angelenos take part in the many educational and cultural programs, resources, and services at the Los Angeles Public Library. Before we look ahead to what will be an exciting new year at the Library, here’s a look back at some of the diverse activities supported by the Library Foundation in 2014. Thanks to all of our Members for joining us throughout the year and for making these invaluable experiences free and available to all.

January
ALOUD kicked-off a new year of eclectic programming unique to L.A. and the Library. In January, ALOUD paid tribute to Los Angeles’ unofficial poet laureate, Wanda Coleman, to honor what she did for poetry and who she was in Los Angeles: ­a larger-than-life figure who for decades reminded us how to be our own most authentic selves.

February
The Library Foundation’s coziest fundraiser of the year, The Stay Home and Read a Book Ball, took place, inviting Angelenos to support the Los Angeles Public Library without leaving their homes. Last year, folks stayed home in record numbers–raising the most funds ever in the long history of this favorite event! Save the date for the 2015 ball on March 1st.

March
Young Literati Members gathered with L.A.’s best and brightest for the Sixth Annual Young Literati Toast to raise funds for the Los Angeles Public Library’s “Summer Reading Clubs.”  The evening featured Young Literati Chair Amanda Fairey, emcee Busy Philipps, and music by Moby and Jenny Lewis, along with readings and comedic interludes from Nick Kroll, Lizzy Caplan, and Tig Notaro.

April
After flocks of authors and booklovers strolled the lawns of USC for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books last April, participating authors and Library Foundation Members continued celebrating the literary life of this city late into the night at the Third Annual “Book Drop Bash” with more than 400 people gathering at the downtown Central Library.

May
A new exhibit marking the 75th anniversary of Union Station opened at the Central Library. No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station was the first exhibition to examine the significance of the architectural design and cultural politics of the historic station, and included a series of related events like ALOUD panels and a changing display of model trains by various train clubs throughout Southern California.

June
The “Summer Reading Club” kicked off to foster literacy and learning while students were out of school last summer. Los Angeles Public Library’s longest running program motivated over 30,000 kids to crack the books and engage in innovative ways with storytelling.

July
The Library Foundation welcomed Ellen Lipson in her new role as President of The Council. Throughout the year, The Council hosted many special programs and fundraising events to benefit and raise awareness for the Los Angeles Public Library like a special evening and book signing with Norman Lear.

August
The Young Literati gathered in Santa Monica for a proper send-off to the season of long sunsets and frosty cocktails. The Summer Social offered Members the chance to raise their glasses to this past year of incredible support for the Los Angeles Public Library, and also get a sneak peek of what’s on the horizon for this dedicated group of engaged and informed Angelenos.

September
Supporters of the Library Foundation gathered at the historic California Club to celebrate the Foundation’s 22nd anniversary with a gala to benefit the great Los Angeles Public Library. This year’s benefit honored Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz with the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award and bestselling author Judith Krantz with the Foundation’s Light of Learning Award for her devoted advocacy for the Los Angeles Public Library.

October
Throughout the month, Angelenos joined the Library Foundation and the Los Angeles Public Library for an epic quest to reinterpret Homer’s The Odyssey through a Southern California lens. With over 70 Odyssey-themed activities at the branch libraries for children, teens, and adults, including bike riding with the Cyclops and pop-up appearances by a commemorative Homer Simpson poster, the Odyssey Project culminated with a marathon reading of the epic poem at the Central Library.

November
ALOUD’s award-winning series journeyed to the west side as critically acclaimed Irish novelist Colm Tóibín was interviewed by New York Times bestselling L.A. local Rachel Kushner. The pair took the stage at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills for a conversation about Tóibín’s new novel, Nora Webster, while also discussing their shared passion for some of literature’s most memorable characters.

December
The Library Store got their motors running for the holiday season and sent The Library Store On Wheels to sites across the city to offer unique gifts from our carefully curated collection that gives back to the Los Angeles Public Library.

Happy New Year from the Library Foundation!

Look back at other great photos from the year here.

If you are not a Member already, please consider becoming a Library Foundation Member today to take part in these special events.

From the Archive: Holidays Past

Beyond twisting strings of light around the fronds of palm trees, Los Angeles is a diversely festive city that has always taken an active part in this season’s many multicultural celebrations. Here’s a look back through the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection at how Angelenos have historically celebrated Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas.

Lighting Hanukkah Candleshttp://jpg1.lapl.org/pics29/00034452.jpgRan Yaniv, aged 3, fourth child from left, with friends, lighting Hannukah candles at the Jewish kindergarten in London. Part of Shades of L.A., an archive of photographs representing the contemporary and historic diversity of families in Los Angeles, this photo is dated 1962.

Hannukah Advertising http://jpg3.lapl.org/pics26/00062870.jpgActor Sal Mineo and Frank Fott, Regional Manager of Foster and Kleiser Outdoor Advertising, pose next to a public service message billboard urging people to buy State of Israel bonds for free tickets to a Festival to be held Sunday, December 15 of an unidentified year, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

 

Kwanzaa Parade Participants http://jpg2.lapl.org/pics28/00048705.jpgSome of the participants, including local resident Majaliwa (left of center), at the annual Kwanzaa Parade. Approximately a hundred participants took part in the parade despite the rain and low turnout. The parade started at Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards, and ended at Leimert Park. Local stores, including New York Pants, are present in the background. Photograph dated December 31, 1988.

 

Ruddy Elf Arrives by Rickshaw http://jpg1.lapl.org/00085/00085989.jpgPhotograph caption dated December 22, 1987 partially reads, “Arriving for the first time in public relations history by rickshaw, Santa Claus had to cool it with the ‘On, Dancer, On, Prancer’ stuff when he hit Chinatown in the person-drawn vehicle yesterday. He brought gifts including popcorn and candy for the Asian-American children at Castellare [sp] Elementary school. In return, the kids serenaded St. Nicholas with carols at a party organized by merchants on Gin Ling Way.” Photo by Mike Mullen.

 

Danish Christmas Partyhttp://jpg1.lapl.org/00112/00112224.jpg
Photograph article dated December 3, 1964 partially reads, “The authentic Danish Christmas party was given by Peter F. Heering, fifth generation president of the company producing that famous Cherry Heering liqueur. His great great grandfather (a contemporary and acquaintance of Hans Christian Andersen) started the company’s wonderful custom of treating underprivileged children. Tuesday’s guests were 40 kids from Hollygrove Children’s Home and the East Los Angeles Boys Club. They were introduced to the lovely Danish Christmas traditions and given a boatload of imported presents.”

Search more of the many historical photos in the Library’s collection here. Happy holidays from the Library Foundation!

Looking Back at 2014′s Voices of ALOUD

Every year ALOUD brings a diverse range of fascinating voices to the stage for Angelenos to engage with books, art, music, history, science, politics, and more—representing some of the most important stories of our time. We hope you were able to join us for many of the 60 exciting programs in 2014, but just in case, here’s a look back at a few favorite moments. Click on any of the links below for podcasts, videos, and photos.

Jam Sessions
Many electrifying musicians took the ALOUD stage, including legendary punk rocker Exene Cervenka, award-winning pianist Jeremy Denk, classical sensation Jessye Norman, and Grammy Award-winning Angélique Kidjo. And last but not least, ALOUD’s 2014 culminating event featured Carlos Santana discussing his new memoir at the historic Orpheum Theatre.

 

Up Close and Personal
From deeply moving memoirs to riveting biographies, a cast of captivating characters filled the Central Library this year—from theatre critic John Lahr’s thrilling journey into the mind of Tennessee Williams, to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar’s miraculous account of the thirty-three men buried in a Chilean mine, to never-before-shared stories from the illuminating life of Cesar Chavez, to Geoff Dyer on his wildly eclectic writing. Also, The New Yorker’s Jill Lepore unearthed The Secret History of Wonder Woman and bestselling author Jesmyn Ward and New York Times columnist Charles Blow shared their personal stories of growing up in the rural South.

 

Art Talk
ALOUD’s 2014 lineup of artists and art talks further solidified Downtown L.A. as the heart of the city’s pulsing art scene. In a co-presentation with The Broad museum, John Waters spoke with Jeff Koons about his iconic works. Zsa Zsa Gershick directed a dramatic reading of  “Dear ONE,” a moving adaptation of materials from ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at USC. “Master of the impossible” Philippe Petit performed magic tricks, while sociologist Sarah Thornton performed the difficult task of answering the impossible question: “What is an artist?”  In a first-ever interactive art performance at ALOUD, Machine Project transformed the Central Library through sound, dance, video, and multimedia improvisations.

 

Good Reads
And finally, a slate of authors topping many of this year’s best lists discussed their critically-acclaimed works at ALOUD. Lorrie Moore read from her first book of short stories in over 15 years. Pulitzer Prize-winning Marilynne Robinson returned to ALOUD to discuss the last novel in her trilogy, meanwhile Edward St. Aubyn introduced readers to his first book since finishing a five-volume series. Colm Tóibín and Rachel Kushner partnered up for an intimate conversation about Tóibín’s latest book at the Writers Guild Theater, while back at Central Library, an impressive group of actors led by Jason Ritter took the stage for WORDTheatre’s interpretation of Denis Johnson’s epistolary “The Starlight on Idaho.” For fans of Los Angeles history, Walter Kirn spoke with James Ellroy on his latest book Perfidia.

 

Thank you for spending the year with us! We look forward to seeing you in 2015. Learn more about our 2015 program calendar here.

Sharing a Love for Libraries with Meghan Daum

As we’ve officially entered the holiday season, it’s the time of year for reflection and gratitude. Like many Angelenos, we are thankful for the wonderful local literary community that is thriving around the Los Angeles Public Library, including ALOUD veteran and Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum. Before her critically acclaimed new book of essays, The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion, was published last month, we caught up with Daum about her love for the Los Angeles Public Library. “Every writer says this, but growing up, the library was my main place,” says Daum. “We moved a lot when I was younger and every time we would move it was like, ‘Here’s the library, so now you know where the library is—o.k., so now you’re here.’”

unspeakable.jpg

Daum has been no stranger to Central Library either. “I’m always so happy to come down here. I love the building—it’s an old building that feels like true L.A.” Daum referring to Central Library as “the genuine article” is the ultimate compliment from the author of several books concerned with the search for authenticity—including her newest collection as well as her celebrated first collection of essays, My Misspent Youth and her novel The Quality of Life Report.


Daum’s love for Central extends to her frequent appearances at ALOUD, where she has been in conversation with the likes of Jonathan Franzen (pictured above), Lionel Shriver, and Caille Millner. If you missed those events, you can listen to the free podcasts here—along with many other archived ALOUD programs.

And if you feel like sharing your love of the Los Angeles Public Library this season, consider becoming a Member of the Library Foundation. Now through December 31, when you become a Member, upgrade your existing Membership, or give the gift of Membership, a generous donor will match your gift dollar-for-dollar.

 

Listen While You Cook

It’s a week of giving thanks! Of course we are always grateful for the Los Angeles Public Library, but as you prepare to gather your family and friends around the Thanksgiving table, let the Library help you get into the spirit of gratitude. Here’s a few favorite audiobooks available for free download from the Library to offer you a moment of respite amid the buzz of basting, mashing, and whipping. And don’t forget, as your loved ones curl up on the couch in the after-turkey haze, the Library also has hundreds of free movies to instantly stream.

California by Edan Lepucki

California

Angelenos don’t have to worry about arctic blasts this Thanksgiving, but local author Edan Lepucki has imagined a few other troubles on the horizon in her new postapocalyptic novel. The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. But their existence is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant. Terrified of the unknown, they set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community. It can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

The Good Lord Bird

This year’s National Book Awards were just announced, so perhaps now’s the perfect time to catch up on last year’s winners. Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Cover of Madame Bovary

What better reminder to be grateful for what you have? In Madame Bovary, his story of a shallow, deluded, unfaithful, but consistently compelling woman living in the provinces of nineteenth-century France, Gustave Flaubert invented not only the modern novel but also a modern attitude toward human character and human experience that remains with us to this day.

Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald

Diet Cults

Before you feel guilty about that second piece of pumpkin pie, maybe you need to hear from the national bestselling author of Racing Weight, who exposes the irrationality, half-truths, and downright impossibility of a “single right way” to eat and reveals how to develop rational, healthy eating habits.

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange Is the New Black

If you haven’t–or even if you have–already devoured the television series, then check out the absorbing book. With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424, one of the millions of women who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Cover of Gift From the Sea

A classic token of gratitude. In this inimitable, graceful, lucid, and lyrical book, Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age, love and marriage, peace, and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Library Foundation!

 

Zoning in on Ideal Study Spaces

How do you create a space where students will want to crack open their books after school? A space that’s safe and inviting, a space that’s cool, but also functional? “I think it’s really fun to create areas without architecture—like the idea of a treehouse,” says architect Cory Grosser. “If you’re a kid and you build a treehouse, it’s your space that’s separate from the house or from your parents, and there’s some independence and ownership of that space.” Cory Grosser Design + Strategy was contracted this fall by the Library Foundation to reimagine its Student Zones at 10 branch libraries.

Student Zones offer children and teens access to dedicated furniture, computers, and equipment during the after-school hours, including books, free printing, supplies, and learning resources. “Libraries are already a big draw for students—Student Zones are a central space within the Library where they can find the resources they need to complete homework and ultimately graduate high school and pursue their dreams,” says Imani Harris, an associate director at the Library Foundation who is overseeing the renovations of Student Zones.

By using modern furnishings, bright colors, and different seating postures—from stools with a laptop bar area to a sofa or floor seating—these new micro-spaces will accommodate the different work habits of all students. “I just wanted to make these spaces so that kids want to be there,” says Grosser. “Our belief is that good design will increase the usage of the Student Zones and that they will chose to attend their local library for after school activities because it is a cool and functional place to be.”

Last year, over 30,000 used Student Zones, and the Foundation hopes these improvements will inspire even more students to use these hubs, which also serve as access points to other free student resources like Live Homework Help and Student Smart. In addition to the redesign, Student Zone Helpers have been added at 15 branches to assist kids with their homework and computer questions, and the Foundation hopes to expand the zones to all 72 neighborhood libraries within the next five years.

Legend Carlos Santana Rocks the ALOUD Stage

To conclude an illuminating year of programming at ALOUD, come spend a magical evening with one of the most influential and visionary musicians of our time, Carlos Santana. On Monday, December 1st at the Orpheum Theatre, Santana will take the stage with Cheech Marin to share the story of his remarkable life as he discusses his new memoir, The Universal Tone. Santana’s soulful new memoir, which is receiving starred reviews from critics, reflects on his humble childhood in Mexico to his celebrated career as a guitarist that bloomed during San Francisco’s Summer of Love. As The Universal Tone is quickly becoming required reading for fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist, here’s a look at a few of Santana’s own recommended reads to get you amped up for his special appearance at ALOUD. Learn more about getting tickets to An Evening with Carlos Santana.

Many of these authors from Carlos’ Bookshelf can be found at the Los Angeles Public Library:

The Fifth Agreement
by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckhart Tolle

A Mini Course for Life
by Gerald Jampolsky, M.D. and Diane Cirincione, PH.D

End your story begin your life
by Jim Dreaver

The Body of Light
by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

And rounding out his reading list, recently on Twitter Santana called legendary jazz musician and composer Herbie Hancock’s new memoir Possibilities “required reading.” The book is now available at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Book Jacket for: Possibilities
Learn more about getting tickets to An Evening with Carlos Santana.
Mon, Dec 01, 7:30 PM [ALOUD]
The Orpheum Theatre
The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light
In conversation with Cheech Marin
Main image: Carlos Santana (credit: RUBÉN MARTÍN)

Membership Matching Gift Challenge: Double Your Donation

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles is launching the 2014 Membership Matching Gift Challenge! Now through December 31, when you become a Member, upgrade your existing Membership, or give the gift of Membership to a friend or loved one, a generous donor will match your gift dollar-for-dollar!

In the Central Library and 72 neighborhood branch libraries, there are reading enrichment, educational and cultural programs, and new technology being offered free of charge to millions of children, teens, and adults. These would not be possible without the support of our Members. Your participation is critical; we need your help to meet this challenge.

Ways to Give:

  • Visit us online at lfla.org/support/join
  • Call the Membership department at 213.292.6242
  • Mail your Membership form and payment to 630 W. Fifth Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Spread the Word!
Think of how many people you know who have been touched by libraries. Encourage your friends and loved ones to join the Library Foundation and give them the opportunity to help millions of people in Los Angeles realize their full potential by supporting equal access to ideas, books, information, and technology.

Take this opportunity to see your contribution go twice as far to enhance the programs, resources, and services of the Los Angeles Public Library. Give $50 and it becomes $100, convert a $250 gift into a $500 impact that will help transform Los Angeles through the power of our Library.

Pictured above Miranda July sharing an interesting read at a Young Literati event.