Well, that was disappointing.
On Wednesday, miracle writer George Saunders came to the Los Angeles Public Library to give a talk with another writer, Bernard Cooper. Saunders has just published his fourth book of short stories, and I think you could call what he's on a book tour, although it seems to be sort of sparse. Wednesday was his only event in the L.A. area, and because he lives in Syracuse and doesn't write very many books, I thought this would be the only shot I was likely to get in the course of a few years to see him speak.
The LAPL where Saunders was speaking (with Bernard Cooper, I'm compelled to add; I'm sorry you're reduced to an also-ran in this post, Bernard, but I haven't read any of your books) was downtown, though, and I mean downtown, like the skyscraper part of Los Angeles that resembles Manhattan. The talk was at 7:15 and I wanted to get there well in time to get a seat, so I left home at 4:30. Traffic was middling, to my surprise, and I got to the library and found parking in enough time to wander around the smallish but amazing garden space that surrounds the library for a little while. If you're ever in downtown L.A., go to the central library. The architecture is remarkable. Very Andrew Ryan.
I went inside and discovered a line of people waiting outside the auditorium where the talk would take place. So I joined them. After 20 minutes or so we were shuffled to a different line behind a sign that read "Standby". Via eavesdropping on conversations a bit, I learned that this event was ticketed, and that those tickets were all totally gone, so the twenty-odd people waiting in line here were people who almost certainly were not going to get in unless the current ticket-holders decided to go to the ballet instead or something.
Here is the website about the event. Here is the website about the lecture series. Do you see any information about having to attain tickets ahead of time? (It was not "off-site" to my knowledge, as I was waiting IN THE LIBRARY.) No, I don't, either.
So, instead of waiting around another 45 minutes for an event for which I was extremely unlikely to get in (I was 13th in line), I just went home. I felt about how you'd expect me to feel. I admire Saunders enormously and would love to see him speak/read/dance one day, but apparently it's not in the cards this year. (Adding insult to injury, it took about 40 minutes to go three miles, getting out of downtown. But once I was on the 5, things were smooth.)
My consolation prize, getting to visit the library itself (a temple to books) and the really interesting surrounding half-city-block of pretty landscaping and fountains, was a decent one. That and getting to see downtown L.A., which I've never seen, and which was sort of an alien experience. It's stupid of me, but I don't think of Los Angeles as a skyscraper-y type of city. When we went into Hollywood to go to the sign and later to see Grauman's Chinese Theatre, that was the L.A. I always think of when I think of it (or just the broad boulevards and ranch houses that exist in the part of L.A. where I actually reside). Definitely citylike, but not glass and steel and all-business. But I am mistaken in my impression; there is a downtown L.A., and it's not much different from Manhattan or downtown Baltimore.
So. I hoped this post would be another love letter to the experience of hearing authors give talks, but instead it's me saying that I can't wait to go back to the central L.A. library. C'est la vie.