Announcing Special Guest to Discuss ‘There There’

In this week's newsletter, we announce that poet Kaveh Akbar will appear in conversation with author Tommy Orange and host John Freeman for November’s California Book Club gathering.

tommy orange, there there, kaveh akbar, john freeman

Poet Kaveh Akbar’s visceral “Against Dying” begins, “if the body is just a parable / about the body if breath / is a leash to hold the mind / then staying alive should be / easier than it is.” The power of Akbar’s work is undeniable, and so we are excited to announce that he is the special guest for our November 18 meeting. He will join novelist Tommy Orange and our host, John Freeman, to talk about There There. Please mark your calendars to indicate that this conversation will be at 6 p.m., one hour later than we usually gather.

Born in Tehran, Iran, Akbar is the author of the poetry collections Calling a Wolf a Wolf and Pilgrim Bell and the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic. Calling a Wolf a Wolf received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. A review of Pilgrim Bell in the New Yorker observed, “Akbar’s concern with language is deadly serious: to speak is to survive.” His poems have been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Paris Review, The Best American Poetry, and elsewhere.

Akbar was named poetry editor of the Nation in 2020. An anthology he edited, The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 110 Poets on the Divine, will be published in 2022. Akbar has received many honors, including multiple Pushcart Prizes, a Civitella Ranieri Foundation fellowship, and the Levis Reading Prize.

Don’t miss the conversation with Orange, Akbar, and Freeman about There There. It is sure to be a bracing and unique consideration of mortality, atrocities of empire, and linguistic dexterity. •

Join us on November 18 at 6 p.m. when Orange will be in conversation with CBC host John Freeman and special guest Kaveh Akbar. And visit the Alta Clubhouse to discuss your thoughts about the role history plays in the present-day urban experiences of Indigenous people in There There with your fellow California Book Club members.


movie posters, nashville, do the right thing, mystery train


Alta Journal assistant editor Nasim Ghasemiyeh recommends five ensemble films, dating back to Robert Altman’s 1975 Nashville, that deploy a structural design similar to the one Tommy Orange uses in There There. —Alta

how to wrestle a girl, perishing


Two sophomore books, Natashia Deón’s The Perishing, a speculative novel, and Venita Blackburn’s How to Wrestle a Girl, a short story collection, satisfyingly delve into the lives of Black women in California. —Alta

opioid epidemic


Southern California author Sam Quinones explains that his new book, The Least of Us, looks at how the opioid epidemic awakened a “very sophisticated giant of an underworld industry” to synthetic drugs. —Los Angeles Times

maggie nelson
Nuria Just


Semiotext(e) recently published San Francisco writer Dodie Bellamy's Bee Reaved, along with a new edition of her The Letters of Mina Harker. Leslie Jamison asks what makes her literary excess feel artful. —New Yorker

turn your life into art, caveat magister
Burning Man Project


In Turn Your Life Into Art: Lessons in Psychomagic from the San Francisco Underground, Caveat Magister (a.k.a. Benjamin Wachs) looks at the effect Burning Man has had in the Bay Area and elsewhere. —San Francisco Chronicle

sylvère lotringer


Sylvère Lotringer, coeditor of the influential Los Angeles–based press Semiotext(e), has died. He brought French theory to art circles in the United States. —Los Angeles Times

kiss of the spider woman
Los Angeles Review of Books


Oakland novelist Carolina De Robertis writes about reading with the body you have and the enduring power of Manuel Puig’s queer masterpiece Kiss of the Spider Woman. —Los Angeles Review of Books

jon m chu


Jon M. Chu, who helmed Crazy Rich Asians, will direct the animated feature-length adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! The book is popularly gifted on milestone occasions such as graduations. —Deadline

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