Tales From Two Cities: Writing From California - LA

February 20 - 22, 2014


Carey McWilliams: L.A., Zoot Suits, & Hunter S. Thompson

Bill Deverell, professor of history at the University of Southern California, describes how journalist Carey McWilliams wrote about Los Angeles and California, from migrant workers to the Zoot Suit Riots, and influenced writers like Hunter S. Thompson. 

Character Flaw, World-Building & Writing the Apocalypse

Edan Lepucki, author of California, and writers Charles Yu and Scott Timberg look at the problem of world building versus character development in fiction and science fiction.

Hollywood Brought Gertrude Stein to L.A.

Historian Sam Watters explains that despite Gertrude Stein's reported disdain for Hollywood and the movies, it what was in fact drew her back to America and L.A.

How Mexican Food Unified California

Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, discusses how throughout California's turbulent history, Mexican food has been the one unifying factor. 

Isolation and 'Incredible Loneliness' Define L.A.

Hector Tobar, journalist and author of The Barbarian Nurseries, discusses how isolation and individualism contrasted with openness and possibility define Los Angeles and the California ethos. 

Joan Didion, Irony, & The Death of the California Dream

David Ulin, book critic for the L.A. Times, reads from his essay "What Happened Here?" and picks apart the message and methods of Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem.

Poet Gary Snyder: Save the Los Angeles River

Pulitzer-prize winning poet Gary Snyder shows the evolution of the Los Angeles River from a drainage ditch to a park for kayakers, hikers, artists, and neighbors.

Pynchon & Gravity's Rainbow: A Rocket Pointed at L.A.

Journalist David Kipen describes how Los Angeles, from the Bradbury Building to Santa Monica Freeway, helped shape the end of Thomas Pynchon's opus Gravity's Rainbow.

Setting Los Angeles in a California Literary Context

Book critic David Ulin opens the second part of Tales from Two Cities by posing the question "What does it mean to read and write from and of California?"

Tapping Into the Creative Culture of East LA

Poet and author Luis Rodriguez describes how de-industrialization impacted the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago where gang violence took root.  He seeks to tap into the creativity of those communities in his writing.

Walter Mosley Talks Adapting Books to Film

Devil in the Blue Dress author Walter Mosley discusses the process of having his work adapted to film and television and whether he dreams of Denzel Washington. 

Will 'Her' Change the Direction of LA Architecture?

Architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times Christopher Hawthorne discusses how the development of multiple screens will change the direction of architecture and how the depiction of LA in the movie 'Her' might not be far off. 

About this conference

Two free conferences examining the literature of Alta California, north and south - from immigration to innovation, from the desert to the coast. Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, print and digital: It's all part of how California defines itself, going back to the earliest days. Regional distinctions are important, but most essential is the idea of California as a state with a culture and aesthetic all its own. What is our sensibility? How does the literature of California tell us who we are?

Presented in partnership with the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. The Library Foundation of Los Angeles provides critical support to the Los Angeles Public Library resulting in free programs, resources and services available to millions of adults, children, and youth of Los Angeles. Through fundraising, advocacy and innovative programs, the Library Foundation strengthens the Los Angeles Public Library and promotes greater awareness of its valuable resources. For more information, please visit www.lfla.org.

About The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West

The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (ICW) is a center for scholarly investigation of the history and culture of California and the American West. Through sponsorship of innovative scholarship and research, ICW draws on the resources of the University of Southern California and The Huntington Library to build an innovative collaboration between a research university and a research library.

For more information, visit: http://usc.edu/icw

The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West Events