Litquake, the "largest literary festival west of the Mississippi River," will be upon us before we know it, so make arrangements now. Think of it as a "literary spectacle" to take place appropriately in San Francisco.
So, just what is it? For one thing, it's a convergence of more than 850 authors, actors, musicians and comedians involved in 163 events (many of them free) held over nine days. Put another way, it's an all-genre, all-arts carnival to include seminars, panel discussions, workshops, hundreds of readings, drama, art and music, along with special presentations by editors and premier writers. Think "edgy" and "provocative." Most of the participants are based in the Bay Area, but many will arrive for Litquake from a dozen countries.
To drop a few names: Stanford University professor Adam Johnson (who will appear for the Bee Book Club on Thursday for "The Orphan Master's Son"), Nobel Prize nominee Ngugi Wa Thiong, McSweeney's publisher Dave Eggers, Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler, former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass and Emmy-winning humorist Merrill Markoe.
Litquake has expanded this year to feature "Words and Pictures," an "arts and culture-centric series" in several museums, along with first-time events in the East Bay.
The grand finale will be the Lit Crawl through the Mission District, featuring a multitude of happenings at 86 venues, paired with plenty of food, drink and entertainment. An estimated 450 authors will be along for what promises to be a wild ride. Look for a Nancy Drew impersonator and a skateboarding preacher.
Litquake will shake San Francisco on Oct. 5-13. For all the details: www.litquake.org.
Salute to local 'salon'
Sacramento's Living Library series continues with a remembrance and appreciation of Oak Park's Belmonte Gallery. "It was the first off-the-wall art gallery in Sacramento," said Peter Keat, owner of Time Tested Books.
The gallery opened in 1962 and became the local "salon" for avant-garde artists of the day, including Wayne Thiebaud, Bruce Nauman and Robert Arneson. A panel discussion will feature original Belmonte Gallery owner-operator Masako Yniguez, and artists Irving Marcus and Kurt Fishback. The free event will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at Time Tested Books, 1114 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 447-5696.
Upcoming Living Library events at Time Tested Books will be:
"Sacramento True Crime," 7 p.m. Oct. 21.
"Sacramento's Lost Movie Houses" with cinema historian Matias Bombal, 7 p.m. Nov. 18.
Rediscover 1950s sci-fi giants
The late Ray Bradbury was such a titan in the arenas of fantasy and science fiction that it's easy to overlook other equally gifted writers in those genres.
One way to discover or rediscover their fantastic tales is via the two-volume set "American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s" (Library of America, $70, 1,672 pages).
In it, new and veteran fans will find tales by such legends as Frederick Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, Robert Heinlein, James Blish and Fritz Leiber. Those names are part of the who's who of early writers who laid the foundations of sci-fi and fantasy, made it respectable and opened the doors for those who followed.
Still looking for something to read? Try this potpourri:
The big news is Lee Child's new Jack Reacher novel, "A Wanted Man" (Delacorte, $28, 416 pages; coming Sept. 11). Reacher is a likable killer who operates under the radar and by his own "code of honor." He's a former MP in the Army who now makes his living as a "problem solver."
In this 17th title in the mega- popular series, Reacher is hitching a ride to Virginia when all hell breaks loose and as usual he ends up in the middle of it. Child appeared for the Bee Book Club in 2006.
Momentous, too, is the release of "Fool Me Twice" by Michael Brandman (Putman, $25.95, 288 pages; Sept. 11). After author Robert B. Parker's death, it was announced that his publisher would continue his popular Spenser and Jesse Stone series, naming veteran novelist Ace Atkins to write the adventures of Boston private eye Spenser. The Stone books would be written by producer-screenwriter Michael Brandman.
In this one, sheriff Jesse Stone (played in TV movies by Tom Selleck) deals adroitly with a Hollywood movie company that comes to his small town, bringing with it a prima-donna actress and loads of trouble.
"The Dead Season" by Christopher Kent (Corvus, $25.95, 400 pages): It's a hot August in Florence, Italy, when ex-cop-turned P.I. Sandro Cellini catches the strange case of a banker who has vanished until his body is eventually discovered. Two other mysteries within this mystery make for a top-notch end-of-summer read.
"Miss New India" by Bharati Mukherjee (Mariner, $14.95, 336 pages): Living in a backwater town in rural India, Anjali Bose has only an arranged marriage in her future. Until she splits for the big city and reinvents herself. But there's a price to pay.
"The Statue of Liberty" by historian Edward Berenson (Yale University Press, $25, 248 pages) looks at an American icon from a cultural perspective, revealing surprising tidbits. For instance, the U.S. initially was skeptical about accepting the unauthorized French-built statue, which was unveiled in New York Harbor in 1886.
"White Jacket Required" by Jenna Weber (Sterling Epicure, $19.95, 216 pages): The food blogger (eatliverun. com) recalls the behind-the-scenes drama during her year at a culinary school; with recipes.
"Stuff Every American Should Know" by Denise Kiernan and Joeph D'Agnese (Quirk, $9.95, 144 pages): Such as the origin of Mt. Rushmore, which U.S. coins are worth collecting, how to grill the perfect burger. ... One more: Is it really illegal to tear a dollar bill in half? Yes, it is.
LET US KNOW
If you have information on author appearances, book sales, writing seminars, writers club meetings or other book-related special events, email it to bookmarks @sacbee.com at least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to www.sacbee.com/books.