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Zeit bites: One weekend, two festivals


Vegas book lovers have a tough decision in April: Stay in town for the big, new litstravaganza? Or go to L.A. for the traditional bookapalooza?

The Los Angeles Times Festival of BooksSponsored by: A certain L.A. newspaper

When: April 22-23

Where: University of Southern California

Sponsor Message

Headliners: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, T.C. Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, Roxane Gay, Michael Connolly, Bryan Cranston, Congressman John Lewis, Chuck Palahniuk, Rebecca Solnit, more

Why this festival over the other: Choice. A crazy, exhausting wealth of choice. From a dozen panel talks, author interviews and book-signings in every time slot, to stages devoted to poetry, cooking and readings, to hundreds of vendors (publishers, creators, knickknacks), you’ll need a case of Red Bull to power through all the options and the ability to make a few hard choices.

Footnote: Here’s a tip: Stay in beautiful Pasadena — home to the great bookstore Vroman’s and a number of excellent used bookshops worth a crawl — and zoom down to the festival. Afterward, satisfy your book lust at such great L.A. shops as The Last Bookstore and Book Soup.

The Believer FestivalSponsored by: The Black Mountain Institute

When: April 21-22

Sponsor Message

Where: Red Rock Canyon; Mob Museum; Place on 7th; Bunkhouse Saloon

Headliners: Dave Eggers, Heidi Julavits, Vida Vendela, Miranda July, Carrie Brownstein, Ben Marcus, Luis Alberto Urrea, Tift Merritt, more

Why this festival over the other: No travel, for one. Also: It’s a big deal — this gathering of talent deserves national attention, as does the nontraditional format. Shrewdly, the organizers will eschew the familiar panel-chat setup for more inventive staging: an evening of readings at Red Rock Canyon; music at the Bunkhouse Saloon; in the Mob Museum’s courthouse, writers will present “amicus briefs” before a panel of literary judges, about where the American Dream is most alive now.

Footnote: This is called The Believer Festival after The Believer magazine, an offbeat lit-mag once a mainstay of the McSweeney’s portfolio, newly purchased by the Black Mountain Institute. The overall theme of the festival is “American Dreams.”

Scott Dickensheets is a Las Vegas writer and editor whose trenchant observations about local culture have graced the pages of publications nationwide.