Speakers invited to Atwater Crossing do so at the mercy of frequently passing nearby trains, an eventuality that goes from alluring to annoying faster then, well, a passing train. Beyond that little hiccup, the venue is lovely and welcomes in fresh air similar to the way a craftsman bungalow blurs a line between indoor and outdoor space.
The usual preening and posturing, obnoxiously evident at many Los Angeles events, took a distant backseat at January 12th at ATX in Atwater Village. In a city often accused of being bereft of traditions, suffering for want of a deeper, more serious culture, the place was packed to see author Aimee Bender, currently promoting her most recent literary offering The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.
Waiters ducked between clusters of attendees, wineglasses and rustic-looking pizzas in tow. A pop-up table appeared set to sell Bender’s various books and other swag from Slake Media, the event’s organizing force. I recognized Slake’s Joe Donnelley and silently pleaded, for the sake of the crowd, that he’d left his guitar at home, after that unique performance at X Ten Biennial. Fortunately for all, we were spared an encore, but a duo covering The Velvet Underground serenaded the standard irreverent LA background chatter, before Bender’s reading commenced.
I found myself growing frustrated, facing down one of the less flattering labels of Los Angeles: “Doesn’t anyone come to these things to actually listen to the speaker?” The cover band trucked on and a rendition of Belle and Sebastian’s “Lazy Line Painter Jane” poked its way through the clamor.
Slake Media, fresh from a successful Kickstarter campaign to keep their budding literary journal afloat, has repeatedly shown their ability to nourish a small but demonstrable local intellectual hunger. Los Angeles all too often reveals shades of a disconnected city, fighting at times for a more thoughtful identity amid a stereotypically vapid, superficial existence.
Aimee Bender’s reading at ATX helped remind me, an LA native who once fled to NYC, that in the proper aspect this city could uncover an extant literary soul. When Bender finally read The Fake Nazi, a charming story from Lemon Cake, the crowd hushed, the reverence gelled. It showed one writer how to take it easy on his hometown, to forgive its silly public persona and to seek out those moments of privileged brilliance.
For information on future events, the Atwater Crossing’s event calendar can be found here.