Desert Companion

2016 Fall culture calendar:: Literature and ideas


Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo (Behind the Beautiful Forevers)

Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo (Behind the Beautiful Forevers)

Food, festivals & Family | Music | Theater &  Dance | Literature and Ideas | Visual Arts


Strut and fret your hour upon the stage!

Is that a dagger you see before you? It can be, when you clamber onstage to read a chunk of William Shakespeare’s work during this afternoon presentation of Big Bill’s life and art. Dan Decker, founder of the Shakespeare Institute of Nevada, will talk about the playwright’s life and times. Then the voluntary readings begin! (SD) 3p, Summerlin Library, free, 702-507-3863



Neon enlightenment

There’s so much to say about neon signs and Las Vegas that it will take Maggie Zakri, collection and archive manager at the Neon Museum, two separate lectures to cover it. Today’s focuses on the science of neon. Her talk on October 16 will focus on the art. (SD) 1p, Windmill Library, free, 702-507-6036



The H stands for heck of a guy

Anyone in their write mind will want to spend “An Evening With H. Lee Barnes,” the eminent Las Vegas author. He’ll read from his latest book, The Gambler’s Apprentice, a novel, and discuss writing, drawing on his experiences authoring several other novels, short story collections and books of nonfiction. (SD) 7p, Clark County Library, free, 702-507-3459


Jamaal May{9/22

Beautiful poems for a troubled city

Born and raised in Detroit, poet Jamaal May writes about his troubled hometown with a generous heart and clear eye — but, crucially, without ever romanticizing the hardships. Instead, his declarative style reveals a beauty in sharply and simply observed facts. The Black Mountain Institute hosts May as part of its stellar Emerging Writers Series. (AK) 7p, Rogers Literature & Law Building, UNLV, free,



A long journey that isn’t over

 An entertaining, multidisciplinary tour through black history, “Urban Noir Project: From Slavery to the White House,” will use theatrical vignettes, music, dance and more to take viewers from the slavery era to the election of Barack Obama, and all the twists between. Says here it’s for mature audiences. (SD) 2p both days, West Las Vegas Library, free, 702-507-3989

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First Amendment solutions

In what has become a thought-provoking and entertaining annual evening of free-speech celebration, Review-Journal columnist and occasional Desert Companion contributor Steve Sebelius will host a panel on censorship pegged to Banned Books Week. Also, Cockroach Theatre actors will do staged reading sof banned and challenged books. (SD) 7p, Clark County Library, free, 702.507.3459



Can’t look away

If you’re going to talk about the grotesque allure of violent spectacle and its representations in literature, your first call is to wild-man writer William T. Vollman, whose vast oeuvre explores man’s inhumanity to man. Then you give Kerry Howley a jingle, thanks to her MMA book, Thrown, and while you’re at it, you ring up Jonathan Gottschall for the reasons implied by the title of his book, The Professor in the Cage. These things the Black Mountain Institute has done. (SD) 7p, Si Redd Room in the Thomas & Mack Center, free,




Mark the 100th birthday of the National Parks system with this presentation by author (and wild lands firefighter) Scott Abella about his new book, Conserving America’s National Parks. What state are they in in the 21st century? What further preservation measures are needed? Find out here. (SD) 2p, Clark County Library, free, 702-507-3459



Boo? Yeah.

It’s called “Haunted Las Vegas” because host Paul Papa will regale listeners with stories of spectral Sin City. (SD) 7p, Clark County Library, free, 702-507-3459



Nom, nom, nom

While the title of this reading series — “The Delectable Intellectual” — seems to promise the cannibalistic enjoyment of a tasty brainiac, in reality it delivers something even more nourishing: former Marine turned author David Morris, whose writing has appeared in The New Yorker and other venues, reading fresh pages from a work in progress. Dig in! (SD) Noon, Rogers Literature & Law Building at UNLV, free,



A daughter’s investigation

Writer Diane Cameron discusses her book Never Leave Your Dead, an investigation into the murder of her mother by her father, who may have been a traumatized veteran, mentally ill — or something else. (SD) 7p, The Writer’s Block, free,



Performance poet

Shane Koyczan, a poet, musical performer and video figure — his antibullying video “To This Day” has had more than 13 million views — performs twice today. (SD) 2p, Whitney Library; and 7p, West Charleston Library; free,



Excuse me while I Buk

 He may have died 22 years ago, but classic gutter poet Charles Bukowski still might have something to teach: His onetime student and friend, poet Lee Mallory, will share what he knows. (SD) 7p, Clark County Library, free,



For all your psychobiography needs ...

Another “Delectable Intellectual” airing of a writer’s oven-fresh pages, with William Todd Schultz, author of psychobiographies of Truman Capote and Diane Arbus. (SD) Noon, Rogers Literature & Law Building at UNLV, free,



Imagine if he thought he was Adlai Stevenson!

 Richard Wiley, once a Black Mountain Institute bigwig, returns to the UNLV campus in his original incarnation — novelist. He’ll read from his latest, a thriller titled Bob Stevenson, about a New York shrink with a patient who believes he’s Robert Louis Stevenson.  (SD) 7p, Greenspun Hall Auditorium at UNLV, free,



Hey, everyone, it’s Deepak Chopra talking about the future of well-being!

That pretty much sums it up. 7:30p, The Smith Center, $35-$175,



Oily, in a good way

A talk by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose exhibit Oil — which documents the precious liquid’s journey from drilling to refining to distribution with large-scale photographs — is on exhibit at UNLV’s Barrick museum. (SD) 7:30p, Barrick Museum at UNLV, free,



Words on the streets

In “Asphalt Stories,” history expert Mark Hall-Patton — you know him and love him from his cameos on that famous pawn shop show — delves into the more-interesting-than-it-sounds stories behind street names in Las Vegas. (SD) 7p, Clark County Library, free, 702-507-3459



The return

Poet and translator Mani Rao — author of nine volumes of poetry, receiver of an MFA in creative writing from UNLV — returns to campus for an intimate reading. (SD) 7p, Rogers Literature & Law  Building at UNLV, free (RSVP requested),



A real draw

The Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival: a full-day, calendar-clearing nerdgasm of comics creators, panels, shop talk and product. Guests include James Robinson (Scarlet Witch), Scott Koblish (Deadpool, X-Men), Amy Chu (Poison Ivy) and many, many more. (SD) 9:30a-4:30p, Clark County Library, free,



The other Dustin Hoffman

Dustin M. Hoffman, we mean — the writer whose short fiction has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Witness, Indiana Review and more; whose collection One Hundred-Knuckled Fist won the 2015 Prairie Schooner Prize. That’s the Dustin Hoffman who will read as part of the “Emerging Writers Series.” (SD) 7p, Rogers Literature & Law  Building at UNLV, free (RSVP requested),



Inside the Paiute reservation

Chances are you know little, if anything, about the urban reservation of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. Just a few blocks north of the glowing Fremont Street neighborhood, it’s very nearly as old as Las Vegas itself. Learn more at this screening of City Within a City: The Story of the Las Vegas Paiutes, and hear an interview with director Stan Armstrong. (SD) 7p, West Las Vegas Library, free, 702-507-3989



Hey, everyone, it’s Bob Newhart being funny!

That pretty much sums it up. (SD) 7:30p, The Smith Center, $29-$99,



BMI turns 10

It’s been 10 years since the Black Mountain Institute launched. How time flies: So many writers, panel talks, publications. The occasion will be marked by BMI BFF Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, along with heavy hitters Cheryl Strayed, Tom Bissell and hometown literary star Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children. Calendar marked! (SD) Time and venue TBA,



Native Americans in the Civil War

Largely left out of our conception of the Civil War are the roles played by various Native American tribes on both sides of the conflict. Director Stan Armstrong’s documentary Native Americans of the Civil War aims to enhance that narrative. (SD) 7p, West Las Vegas Library, free, 702-507-3989



Milk and monkeys

Tom Lutz, editor of the acclaimed Los Angeles Review of Books and adventure traveler, will read from his books And the Monkey Learned Nothing and Drinking Mare’s Milk on the Roof of the World. (SD) 7p, the Writer’s Block, free,


The Vegas Valley Book Festival used to be a single day-long affair. This year it’s still one date, but, essentially, two festivals — daytime and evening, each with a distinct personality.


A day of books!

This year’s daytime program stars Stacy Schiff, historian and author of The Witches: Salem, 1692, and will be keynoted by Longmire author Craig Johnson. Parents, look for the usual raft of YA offerings. Plenty of popular fiction, too. One highlight for locals is sure to be a panel recounting the Las Vegas Sun’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize. Sponsored by the City of Las Vegas, the Library District and Nevada Humanities. (SD) 10a-5p, Historic Fifth Street School, free,


An evening of books!

The literature ain’t over until it’s over. This year there will be an evening program of more literary fare, put together by the Black Mountain Institute, Nevada Humanities and the Writer’s Block. Look for Pulitzer Prize winners Katherine Boo, above (Behind the Beautiful Forevers) and Adam Johnson (Fortune Smiles), along with stellar essayist Geoff Dyer. (SD) 6-10p, Inspire Theatre, free,


If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

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Literature and Ideas
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