By Juan Barquin
By Ciara LaVelle
By George Martinez
By Kat Bein
By Ciara LaVelle
By Travis Cohen
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Monica McGivern
Though some feminists have taken issue with her newest work, Wolf says she receives regular letters from readers sharing their own stories. And she's still delighting in her subject matter. Take her favorite euphemism for vagina:
"I have to say it's 'the Force,'" she giggles. "It's so hilarious, it's so funny, and it's one of the very few words... that isn't infantilizing or, you know, gross. May 'the Force' be with you!" (Saturday, November 17, 11:30 a.m., free) — Ciara LaVelle
Starting with his classic urban horror story Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh has explored with more verve than many other writers the societal circumstances that drive people to do really, really bad things.
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His seventh novel, Skag Boys, reunites readers with the self-absorbed, conniving scalawags from his famed debut before they became heroin-addled schemers, and chronicles their descent into addiction — all while skewering the Margaret Thatcher-led '80s government that hastened their downward spiral.
Welsh's antihero protagonist, Mark Renton (the character played by actor Ewan McGregor in Danny Boyle's 1996 film) joins his father and thousands of union workers at a protest just outside a coal factory in Edinburgh, Scotland, the author's hometown. Renton, his dad, and the union men are corralled and savagely beaten by cops in riot gear, setting the tone for Skag Boys' thesis: Thatcher destroyed the working class by stamping out the power of trade unions and driving up unemployment.
The result was a new generation of immoral, jobless losers like Renton and his band of misfits — Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie.
"You see these guys going from happy-go-lucky to falling into the defeatism of the heroin culture," Welsh says. "This is all happening around the same time of mass unemployment and a breakdown in British society."
Welsh, who lives in a South Beach condo three months a year, isn't shy about connecting the greed-is-good philosophy of the '80s with the ever-growing political power of corporate barons in the United States.
"The whole idea of progress has been reduced to how much more money you have in your bank account at the end of the month," he says. "The characters' addiction to heroin feeds off the despair caused by unemployment and lack of social mobility. There is nothing else for them to turn to." (Saturday, November 17, 3:30 p.m., Building 8, Third Floor, Room 8303, free) — Francisco Alvarado
Mark Helprin has been called the Woody Allen of literary fiction, and for good reason: Few authors have written so lasting and moving a love letter to New York than his classic Winter's Tale. And his latest work, In Sunlight and in Shadow, just might be Helprin's Annie Hall.
His new tale is set against a manic backdrop of a golden-age NYC in the late '40s, as the city emerges from World War II victorious and exploding with energy. It chronicles a passionate love story between Harry, a recently returned paratrooper, and Catherine, a blue-blooded singer.
The work is an homage to Helprin's parents — an actress and a WWII spy — and to an era the author briefly experienced after being born in Manhattan in 1947.
"My father had a perfect photo memory," Helprin says. "I inherited that as a child, though I later lost it. When I was that age, I took in everything around me. That era in many ways is still more real to me than the present."
As Helprin wove Harry's tale of wooing Catherine from an evil fiancé and saving his father's leather business from the mob, he spun scenes of New York life in the late '40s without doing any research but by drawing from his own vivid memories.
By centering the work around a returning war vet trying to find his way after battle, Helprin also had a vehicle to re-create a seminal moment in American history.
"Just for a moment, we were hanging in this impossibly wonderful postwar position. We'd conquered the world," Helprin says. "We had a monopoly and wealth. We'd done something great, and... then we had to look forward." (Sunday, November 18, 3:30 p.m., auditorium, Building 1, Second Floor, Room 1261, free) — Tim Elfrink
What makes a great meal? Check any foodie blog and you'll find loads of praise for the newest chef in town whipping up the most expensive ingredients. But what about the simple pleasures of eating a good home-cooked meal with family and friends?
That's the subject of cultural observer Adam Gopnik's new book about how the French have never forgotten that distinction. The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food is woven with historical accounts of the Gallic influence on food and philosophical questions of the true meaning of cuisine.
"I had difficulty with this book. I wanted to balance a love for food with what people really think about it," Gopnik says.
He pokes fun at the fact that his wife is a terrible cook whose feminist mother insisted she not waste her time slaving over a hot stove. Consequently, Gopnik finds himself barefoot and in the kitchen, preparing meals for his family most nights, and when he can't, he receives predictable recipe questions from his wife, like "How long do I brown the salmon?" (Thursday, November 15, 8 p.m., $10) — Alex Rodriguez