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.

Tales from Two Cities

From the gritty drama of noir to the free-spirited poetry of the Beats, how does the literature of California tell us who we are? This Thursday, February 20, ALOUD kicks off the second part of this special home-grown conference in collaboration with The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. Free and open to all at the downtown Central Library, Tales from Two Cities will explore the language, culture, and aesthetic that has helped to shape the writing of California. Here’s the full schedule of events, but for a sneak preview at some of the California voices gathering this week, check out these highlights from past ALOUD programs.

Walter Mosley, Between the Sheets: Sex, Literature, and the Future of Erotic Fiction. Listen to the podcast here.

 

Attica Locke, The Future of African American Literature and the Paradox of Progress. Listen to the podcast here.

 

David Ulin in Conversation with Joan Didion.

 

Poet Gary Snyder. Listen to the podcast here.

Learn more about the other upcoming participants and how you can watch the conference from home.

Tying the Room Together; Highlights from ALOUD

The year brought many unexpected surprises to the ALOUD stage: a first-ever live rap with local hip hop stars backing author MK Asante; Quetzal bringing vintage music from the Los Angeles Public Library sheet music collection to life; Persian short story master Goli Taraghi slyly comparing Tehranian and Parisian cabbies; the late Wanda Coleman delivering one of her last public readings—a passionate poetry tribute to James Weldon Johnson. We sampled sustainable Congolese coffee before a panel on coffee culture, and blissed out when The Dude himself (Jeff Bridges) ruminated on how “love is the rug that ties the room together.”

Please join us once more before the year’s end to laugh, question, savor, and reflect on some of our favorite ALOUD moments from 2013:

Three accomplished short story writers—George Saunders, Bernard Cooper, and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, unpacked the challenges of the short story form explaining how they work through their own daunting personal doubts.

“Language is like a sword that can defend you.” Iranian writer Goli Taraghi shared this wisdom along with other fascinating insights into how creativity and ingenuity can flourish despite censorship, oppression, and the struggles of an exile living far from her home and mother tongue.

MK Asante and Nick Flynn gifted us raw wisdom in their memoirs, both soaring meditations on the power of poetry, writing, and filmmaking as tools for transmitting universal truths, emotional healing, and unlocking individual freedom.

“Is this your first book in a box?,” asked graphic novelist Gene Yang of fellow illustrator Joe Sacco. Yang dove into a fascinating discussion with Sacco on process, while looking at how artists deal with the ethics of converting history into graphic narratives. Far from being contained within the boundaries of a box, these two artists showed how storytelling is illuminated through diverse forms.

The Feminine Mystique, a panel of multi-generational activists, expanded upon Betty Friedan’s seminal book by exploring the evolution of the feminist movement, and why feminism is still considered a “dirty word.” Highlights included learning about the radical and exploratory approaches women took to protect their health in the sixties (the first time anyone produced a speculum on the ALOUD stage!), and consensus from all participants that feminists today are in favor of a more inclusive movement encompassing class and racial equality for both women and men.

The Library jammed to the jazz and world music tunes of Don Cherry in a live tribute honoring an L.A. genius who spread his cosmic musical talent far and wide. In a first-ever hometown tribute, his talented family of fellow musicians—conducted by his son David Ornette Cherry— shared candid stories from his career while also introducing a new generation to his work.

The ALOUD audience was enlightened by a rich bilingual experience about the life of the late poet and novelist Roberto Bolaño. Here’s a gem from an audience member: “Otherness becomes familiar as the magic of unattainable syllables is rendered even more magical with the conveyance of heart pulse, bone and marrow intentions.”


Activists Albie Sachs, Eve Ensler, Jody Williams and artist Shirin Neshat—all by example—showed what we can do as citizens and artists in service of reconciliation, social justice and as agents for positive change in the world: “You cannot not respond to the world around you—culture has to be morally conscious.” —Shirin Neshat (pictured above)

Thank you for spending the year with us! We look forward to seeing you in 2014. Learn more about our 2014 program calendar here.

Looking at the Past and Present; A Year of Special Projects

The Library Foundation has spent the last year envisioning the role of the 21st century library by launching a range of special projects that celebrate the rich history and culture of Los Angeles in today’s world. Before we head into 2014, we wanted to share some highlights from these projects that we hope have offered Angelenos a chance to experience our city in new and unique ways.

Songs in the Key of L.A.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Over the summer, this special project brought to life the Los Angeles Public Library’s sheet music collection, including the publication of Angel City Press’ beautiful anthology curated by USC Professor Josh Kun. The First Floor Galleries of the Central Library also opened an exhibit of 46 pieces of the cover art from the sheet music, and ALOUD hosted Kun and GRAMMY-winning L.A. band Quetzal for a look at L.A.’s musical history. Listen to the podcast here.

The project closed with what Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic Randall Roberts called “a truly memorable moment, one that many in attendance won’t forget.” East L.A. band Ozmatli and fellow artists took the stage at Grand Performances to resurrect the historic songs from the collection. The evening featured special guests Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, and Cheech Marin filling the California Plaza with a new take on its SoCal roots.

Check out KCET’s Artbound special series for short films documenting the new recordings of songs from the collection below, and download some of the songs here.

 

Whatever Happened to Moby Dick?

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (His transformation is), 2009. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles ©Raymond Pettibon

Throughout the fall, the Library Foundation teamed up with the Los Angeles Public Library to invite readers to take a look at Herman Melville’s masterpiece through a Southern California lens. Over 90 librarian-created events across the city offered Angelenos of all ages to chance to interact with the great white whale, including a special reading of Moby Dick by actor, comedian, and Melvillian enthusiast Patton Oswalt.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Over 200 folks took part in the Summarizing Moby Dick Twitter Contest winners, which offered hilarious and thoughtful micro takes on the epic story, including this favorite:

http://lfla.org/mobydick/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Twitter-Winner-1-copy.jpg

The project culminated with “My Moby Dick,” a grand finale of theatrical performance, sea shanties, and cutting-edge science at the Broad Stage, including a special film by the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Watch parts of this video here, including food critic Jonathan Gold’s retelling of eating whale balls.

 

Lost & Found at the Movies

This fall, we debuted a new series celebrating the art of cinema and the vitality of film culture. Curated by John Nein, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival, the program is eclectic in theme and varies in form, exploring how we lose ourselves and find ourselves at the movies. The first installment unearthed some historic photos of theaters from the Library’s archive and featured Los Angeles Times and NPR Film Critic Kenneth Turan talking about how and where we watch films in L.A.

Check back with us in the new year for upcoming special projects, including the next installment of Lost & Found at the Movies.

Friends at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

We at the Library Foundation are getting excited about the upcoming Los Angeles Times Festival of Books! The Festival gives us a chance to hear from beloved authors, learn about new trends in publishing, listen to live music, sample a cooking demonstration or two, and catch up with old friends. Many past participants of the Foundation’s programs are on the roster, and as we look ahead at the Festival schedule, we’re reminded of some great conversations that have taken place at the Library. Here’s a sampling of a few favorite podcasts and videos from our archive to tide you over till the Festival hits later this month.

Recently, Joyce Carol Oates spoke about her love for libraries at The Council Literary Series to help raise funds for the Los Angeles Public Library. A few years back she also visited ALOUD for an eye-opening conversation with Michael Silverblatt (pictured above). Listen to the podcast here.

Two years ago Jamaica Kincaid paid a unique visit to ALOUD for a discussion on a work-in-progress about a family’s life in a small Vermont town. That novel, See, Now, Then, was just released, and she’ll be reading from the book at the Festival. Listen to her ALOUD podcast here.

Chef Ludo Lefebvre dished with Chef Roy Choi at ALOUD last fall about ephemeral L.A. dining. You can catch Ludo Lefebvre at the Festival, and Roy Choi will return to the Central Library this summer for the upcoming edition of This is Your Library.

Ludo Lefebvre and Roy Choi: Taking the Kitchen to the Street: Experiments in Flavor and Form from ALOUDla on Vimeo.

World-renowned journalist and memoirist Pico Iyer has stopped by ALOUD several times in recent years. Listen here to his 2008 ALOUD conversation about his three decades of encounters with the Dalai Lama. He’ll continue to explore expansive issues when he stops by the Festival for the “Culture of Culture” panel.

We hope to see you as well at the Festival. Stop by our Library Store on Wheels and say hello, or become a member of the Young Literati and join us at the Festival’s “go-to” after-party, the Book Drop BASH! at the Central Library.

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Demystifying the 50th Anniversary of “The Feminine Mystique”

Next week at ALOUD we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. To get ready for this retrospective on the struggle for gender equality, we were curious to see how the media is covering the impact of this groundbreaking book 50 years later. Here’s a rundown of some recent conversations on The Feminine Mystique, as well as a few interesting perspectives on women’s issues from the panelists who will be joining the ALOUD program.

–Over at Slate’s “DoubleX Gabfest Podcast,” panelist Hanna Rosin (and DoubleX’s founding editor), speaks with Noreen Malone and Emily Yoffe about the The Feminine Mystique, with a little love talk and Dear Prudence thrown in for good measure.

And here’s a link to Rosin’s article in The Atlantic, “The End of Men,” about gender role reversals in the workforce, which she later turned into a book that she’ll be signing after the ALOUD program next week.

The New York Times also ran a recent roundtable discussion on The Feminine Mystique with Gail Collins, who wrote the new introduction for the book.

–In the article, “The Bitch Was Onto Something: A Re-Reading of The Feminine Mystique,” Andi Zeisler gives a literary rundown of the book for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

–Lynn Neary at NPR asks if The Feminine Mystique still roars. Listen to her answer here.

–Panelist Kathy Spillar is the executive editor Ms. Magazine. Here are her numerous articles on gender topics from Roe v. Wade to voting rights.

–Learn from panelist Carol Downer’s women’s health website and read about her thoughts on abortion rights.

–Watch panelist Tani Ikeda’s short documentary Turn of the Harvest about a struggling couple in rural China. Ikeda is also the co-founder of imMEDIAte Justice.

We would love to hear your thoughts on Betty Friedan’s work. Please leave a comment below about where you think the women’s movement is headed in the next 50 years.

Eyes on Latin American Literature: Jonathan Franzen Opens the International Book Fair in Guadalajara

There was much to talk about during the 26th edition of the world’s largest Spanish language book fair, and it wasn’t just limited to discussions about books.

An anxious crowd of young book lovers forms a line outside the FIL an hour before the public opening.

The Feria International del Libro, (FIL) for short, a world-wide recognized commercial and public book fair hosted by the University of Guadalajara in the city’s Expo convention center, was marked this year by substantial controversy over the selection of Peruvian novelist Bryce Echenique as the fair’s annual awardee. Echenique has been widely accused of plagiarism on numerous accounts by many in the literary world who, in turn, were outraged upon hearing he had been selected by the FIL jury. The FIL and its president Raúl Padilla were subject to harsh criticism in the weeks preceding the fair, and until this past weekend, it had been unclear if they were going to revoke their decision, as it threatened to tarnish the fair’s prestige among the literary community.

Long-standing President Padilla decided to proceed with honoring Echenique but opted to do so in a discrete ceremony, canceling the traditional opening-day ceremony in Guadalajara and instead presenting the author with his prize in his native Peru (which includes a $150,000 cash award.)

In place of the traditional award ceremony, the FIL instead choose to honor the literary great late Carlos Fuentes (an ALOUD guest in 2011), in a ceremony that included his wife Silvia Lemus and American novelist Jonathan Franzen. Lemus bestowed upon Franzen the newly inaugurated “Carlos Fuentes award,” and the author remarked that it was “personally meaningful to be here [in Guadalajara],” having met Fuentes and Lemus just months before Fuentes passed.

Jonathan Franzen, Silvia Lemus, Jorge Volpi

When asked about his interest in Latin American literature, Franzen admitted that after having paid attention to some of the great authors of the 1970s during the “Latin boom” (Fuentes, Márquez, Llosa) he hadn’t been keeping tabs on authors coming out of Latin America. Speaking from the stage of the expansive and diverse FIL, he said he is now ready to change that. Recently, he has been reading Colombian author Juan Gabriel Vasquez and mentioned that his decision to participate in the fair was a testament to his interest in keeping a close eye on Latin American literature.

 ***

Other authors to keep your eye on:

Juan Villobo (Mexico)
Diamela Eltit (novelist, Chile)
Guillermo Calderón (playwright, Chile)
Angel Ortuño (poet, Mexico)

Here’s a video clip produced by Kattia Hernandez that follows my experience at the fair.

-Reporting from Guadalajara, posted by Maureen Moore

From the Archives: Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is almost here, and we would like to give thanks to all who have taken part in one of the Library Foundation’s educational or cultural programs over the last 20 years. To keep you company as you hunker down in the kitchen this week, here’s a selection of free podcasts from our ALOUD archives that reflect on themes of gratitude. And if you want to get a jumpstart on your gift giving this season, consider our commemorative USB drive, which has over 20 hours of audio podcasts from some of ALOUD’s most memorable programs, now available from the Library Store.

 

Salman Rushdie
Freedom, Literature, and Living on the Run

 

 

 

 

Terry Tempest Williams
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice

 

 

 

 

Eric Overmyer
Catastrophe, Survival, Music and Renewal: New Orleans Culture Post-Katrina

 

 

 

Father Gregory Boyle, Luis J. Rodríguez
An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing 

 

Plug in to 20 Years of ALOUD

As the Library Foundation celebrates our 20th anniversary this year, we’ve put together a commemorative podcast archive of ALOUD—our longest running cultural program that brings some of the most iconic writers, performers, and thinkers to the library stage. For the first time-ever, you can own a portable piece of history through this USB drive, which has over 20 hours of audio podcasts from some of ALOUD’s most memorable programs, including never-before-released recordings such as an acoustic set from Patti Smith, a reading by August Wilson, and a darkly humorous exchange between “Six Feet Under” creator Alan Ball and undertaker/poet Thomas Lynch. Other programs include Susan Sontag, W.G. Sebald, Robert Pinsky, and more. Find it here at the Library Store.

Feeding Roy Choi’s Appetite at the Library

Here’s one of our favorite photos from Wednesday’s ALOUD program with chefs Roy Choi and Ludo Lefebvre.  Yes, Roy will eat anything.  He’s been consuming books at his local library since he was a little kid.  We were pleased to see his appetite is still voracious.

Oh, and if you read the earlier post about our curiosity over the chef’s reactions to our green room fare, I’m happy to report that Roy was beside himself with excitement (and awe?) over the string cheese.  That’s right, we provide a little pre-event old-school lunch box-style nostalgia for our guests with offerings of string cheese (to complement the dried apricots, of course.)

Check out the event page for more photos and the comical, engaging dialogue between Roy and Ludo, as led by LA Mag’s dine editor, Lesley Bargar Suter.

Also, explore the L.A. Public Library’s menu collection through this new project at LA Weekly  which is featuring menus from the collection on a weekly basis.

-Photo by Gary Leonard.  -Post by Maureen Moore