Local Lit | September’s top literary happenings
By Lou Fancher
California Shakespeare Theater | The Winter’s Tale | Sept. 1-26
Does it get more literary than Shakespeare? A live experience with real people and a classic piece of literature from the theatrical canon as centerpiece after a drought of live interactions and a tsunami of virtual entertainment is something to be celebrated. Piedmonters will do well to hop over the Oakland hills to Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda and join audiences giving a hearty cheer for the company’s return to the stage.
The folks at Cal Shakes (after generously sharing their outdoor stage with artists and arts organizations all summer long) at last present the company’s one-production season; a new adaption of The Bard’s The Winter’s Tale. Helming the production are Artistic Director Eric Ting and Dramaturg Philippa Kelly, along with the customary but never-to-be-taken-for-granted fine cast, artistic partners and spectacular crew. Not only is Cal Shakes well versed in Shakespeare and contemporary reimaginings of classic works, but the production operates under current COVID-19 safety protocols, and the safety of audiences, staff, and artists is a top priority. As rules are subject to changing protocols, Cal Shakes encourages ticket holders to check the website for updates about requirements.
Berkeley Arts & Letters with Booksmith | Mary Roach with Zach Weinersmith — Launch for Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law — Sept. 14 | Martin Ford — Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything — Sept. 16
Booksmith and Berkeley Arts & Letters dive into the fall literary season with two events; one ticketed, one free, both virtual and for all ages.
The Bay Area’s most humorous fact-driven science writer Mary Roach joins in conversation with Zach Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and author of the New York Times bestselling popular science book, Soonish to discuss her new book Fuzz about a jaywalking mouse, Easter Mass-crashing gulls, lawbreaking squirrels and the sensory pleasures — and displeasures — of rat bait. (Yes, Roach has sampled it.)
Following swiftly on Roach’s trail, futurist and New York Times bestselling writer Martin Ford inscribes the eerie landscape of life in 2030. According to Ford, artificial intelligence will flow like electricity and to prepare, he advocates for policies such as universal basic income and educational reform. Listen in to find out why it’s crucial we take his words to heart. Ford’s prior TED Talk on the impact of artificial intelligence on society has been viewed over 3 million times: Don’t miss out on a non-robotic but still virtual opportunity to prepare for the AI future.
Great Good Place For Books | Laura Dave and The Last Thing He Told Me — Sept. 16
Los Angeles-based Laura Dave is the author of The First Husband, The Divorce Party, Eight Hundred Grapes, and Hello, Sunshine. In a riveting new book already a #1 New York Times bestseller and perched on the Reese Witherspoon Book Club list, among other accolades, true love is found, then lost, after Owen Michaels enters the life of protagonist Hannah Hall. Along with the mysterious disappearance of her newfound love comes a note left in his absence requesting she protect Owen’s 16-year-old daughter, Bailey. Set primarily in Hall’s Sausalito home, she and the off-put stepdaughter set out on a voyage of discovery filled with all the twists and turns expected or imaginable when the FBI, U.S. marshals, and other forces get involved. The GGPB staff holds superpowers when it comes to teasing out the best of a writer talk: count on laughs and valuable insights from author Dave about her new book and writing process.
Kepler’s Literary Foundation | Joanna Ho and Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma on Sept. 28
Joanna Ho’s new picture book, Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma, presents a biography of the world-famous musician, life as an immigrant, and the bridge-building power of music. Along with Teresa Martinez’s captivating illustrations, Ho tells the story of the world’s arguably greatest cellist and collaborator whose life and work are about unity, peacekeeping, and the beauty of united communities, people, and cultures. With music as the centerpiece, Ho suggests Ma’s achievements are evidence of humanitarianism that transcends sound, words, deeds, and divisive boundaries. Ho is the author of the New York Times bestselling Eyes that Kiss in the Corners and an advocate of anti-bias, anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in books and education. She has a Master’s in Educational Leadership from UC Berkeley and is currently the vice principal of a high school in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Special note for October: In a separate event, Ho will appear Oct. 9 on Forum, the long-running public affairs program cohosted by Mina Kim and Alexis Madrigal, to discuss her new book and the importance of children recognizing themselves in literature and images created for young readers.
Saint Mary’s College | An Afternoon Craft Conversation with Jamil Jan Kochai | Creative Writing Reading Series event with Chris Feliciano Arnold on Sept. 29
In a true double-header-event day, the Moraga college’s MFA in Creative Writing program delivers two intriguing, free programs. Jamil Jan Kochai (99 Nights in Logar, a 2019 release that was a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature), investigates tools and techniques of the writing trade: What constitutes a great sentence? Which writers of renown best demonstrate mastery of great sentences and how does each writer form a collection of words into an unforgettable phrase? Later the same day — stick around the town and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant — find writer Chris Feliciano Arnold joined by MFA faculty from the program to discuss his work. Arnold is best known for essays, fiction and journalism written for The Atlantic, Harper’s, Outside, Vice News, The New York Times and more. His first book, The Third Bank of the River: Power and Survival in the Twenty-First Century Amazon, is a work of narrative nonfiction published by Picador in June 2018.