The 20th annual San Francisco-based Litquake literary festival also features several East Bay outposts. Lit by the Lake takes place on October 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Oakland Public Library. It features East Bay authors Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Alison Hart, Vanessa Hua, Saul Lelchuk, Jenny Odell, and Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.
Litquake, for those unfamiliar, combines the energy of hootenannies and star power of red carpet events with literature at its center. Founded in 1999 by Bay Area writers, the 10-day festival is (mostly) free. Litquake’s panels, cross-media productions, and readings at bookstores, pubs, galleries and 165 total venues attract around 20,000 people. Among the over 860 authors appearing in 217 events this year, highlights include Louise Aronson, Yangsze Choo, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Tope Folarin, Kristin Hannah, Vanessa Hua, Mike Isaac & Roger McNamee, Saul Lelchuk, Jenny Odell, Tommy Orange, Ann Patchett, Christian Robinson, Susan Straight, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Jeanette Winterson, and Tobias Wolff.
“I’m so impressed with the range of what gets put together every year,” says Piedmont resident and Litquake’s Director of Development Amy Kaminer. “What I love is that there is something for everyone.” Kaminer notes that Litquake partners with more than 90 organizations and venues and is 85 percent free — something that’s only possible with substantial support from individuals and foundations.
In anticipation of the East Bay event, Exedra asked a few current and past participants to share what they’re currently reading.
Jenny Odell (artist and author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy) has just finished Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, which she writes in an email “was a combination of research and inspiration for me. She and I approach a lot of similar topics (especially the performative and commodifying aspect of social media) from different angles. Besides the fact that I love her writing style, her arguments have provided invaluable tools for me to think through my own projects.”
Vanessa Hua (journalist at SF Chronicle and author of A River of Stars) recommends My Time Among the Whites by Cuban-American novelist Jennine Capó Crucet. It’s a searing, poignant, witty debut essay collection on privilege, power and race. Copperhead by Alexi Zenter, she says is a “lyrical and clear-eyed” novel about race, masculinity and violence.
Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (author of 2017 National Book Award-nominated A Kind of Freedom and The Revisioners) is re-reading Toni Morrison in light of her passing. “One of the effects of her literary genius is that just reading her influences my work in subtle, nuanced ways. I always want her mark on me as a writer. I particularly love how her books are about communities and moments in time more than specific storylines. I also love psychological thrillers and just finished Sunburn by Laura Lippman. I am in the middle of—and loving—Severance by Ling Ma, which is a masterpiece.”
Mary Roach (best-selling Glenview-based science writer of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and more): “ I’m about to start reading Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides, a wonderful historical fiction writer. I’m on a panel with him so I want to read his books before that event. Nuking the Moon is a fascinating covert intelligence agent’s account of things that almost happened, but didn’t. Things like planting a listening device in a cat. Also on my pile is a Jonathan Roper novel that’s wonderful and quick with great dialogue and Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book.”
Litquake runs Oct 10-19. Visit litquake.org to search scheduled events or to donate. Other East Bay events include: Literary Citizenship in the East Bay on Thursday, Oct. 17 at Left Margin Lit in Berkeley, and a program at Pro Arts in Oakland at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, You’re Going to Die: Our Living Breathing Words.