Do Not Miss This Art

What the world needs now is art—sweet art. In addition to nourishing our souls and broadening our horizons, art might actually help us live longer. According to a study from the University College London, people who engage with the arts regularly are 31 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who don’t. So, it’s with just a bit of tongue in cheek that I tell you Alta’s Winter 2020 issue, on newsstands this week, is packed with potentially life-extending art. You’ll find previews of the most significant current and upcoming shows—and groundbreaking galleries up and down the West Coast:

While you’re out seeing great art and living longer, join us at one of our upcoming events. 

  • TONIGHT: Alta books editor David L. Ulin will discuss his anthology Joan Didion: The 1960s & 70s with Oscar Villalon, managing editor of ZYZZYVA. This event, which will be held at the Mechanics’ Institute at 57 Post Street in San Francisco at 6:30 p.m., is free for Alta and Mechanics’ Institute members and $15 for the general public. RSVP here. 

  • January 28: David Talbot, acclaimed writer, author, and founder of Salon magazine, will discuss Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke with Alta managing editor Blaise Zerega. This free event will be held at 7 p.m. at Book Passage at 51 Tamal Vista Boulevard in Corte Madera. 

  • February 5: Attica Locke, the Edgar Award–winning mystery writer, will discuss her latest, Heaven, My Home with Alta editor-at-large Mary Melton. This free event will be held at 7 p.m. at Vroman’s Bookstore at 695 East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. 

Is there an art show or exhibit you’re particularly excited to see this winter? Let us know at and you might find your suggestion in a future Alta newsletter. Oh, and please send us your photos of Alta’s latest issue in the wild! We want to see where YOU spot Alta

Wishing you a long life full of art!
Beth Spotswood

Songs of the New West
Generations of cowboys have passed time on the trail by sharing stories with one another. Journalist Meredith Lawrence and photographer Scott Baxter head to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to listen to these myths and legends—and some beautiful verse—from five talented tellers of tales. READ MORE
A Talk with Heidi Van Horn
In the first of a new online series that we’re calling Alta Asks, contributor Heather Scott Partington gets poet Heidi Van Horn to reveal her inspiration, her must-read list, and the music she doesn’t listen to while writing. READ MORE
The Inspiration for Alta
“The western sensibility is like the Grand Canyon, built up layer by layer from those who came before us.” Editor and publisher Will Hearst credits West Coast painter Russell Chatham, who died late last year, with helping to inspire AltaREAD MORE
Paula West Live
In this special podcast episode, recorded on November 13, 2019, at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, jazz singer Paula West discussed her process—and her politics—in this intimate evening of conversation and music. West, who was backed by a jazz trio as she performed a number of songs, was also interviewed by journalist Marcus Crowder in front of a packed house of Alta members. This event was inspired by Crowder’s profile of West in Alta’s Fall 2019 issue. Listen: 
Do you have something to tell us after reading an Alta article? We welcome letters to the editor at Drop us a line and let us know what you liked, what you disagreed with, or what blew your mind.
Altatude: This Week’s Cartoon
“Cut down on plastics.”

Like to laugh? Visit the Alta site for more Altatude cartoons. SEE MORE
Our recommendations for this week’s best writing about California and the West.
The Death of the Good Internet Was an Inside Job — New Republic

• Nipsey Hussle Was a Bookworm. Now Black Men Are Finding Inspiration in What He Read. — Los Angeles Times

What’s the Future Look Like for San Diego Republicans? 2020 Will Provide Answers. — Voice of San Diego

Sequins, Decadent Fun Commemorate Cockettes’ 50th Anniversary Party — San Francisco Chronicle

L.A. Issued Its First Street Vending Permit. Here’s Everything You Need to Know About This Historic Moment. — L.A. Taco
Support Alta and our event partners at these upcoming events:
TONIGHT: Joan Didion has been one of California’s most acute observers since the early 1960s; in such books as Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album, she lays bare both the aspirations and the hypocrisies of the state. This fall, Library of America will publish Joan Didion: The 1960s & 70s, the first in a multivolume set of her collected works. Edited by Alta books editor David L. Ulin, the anthology gathers three novels and two works of nonfiction and focuses on Didion’s early iconic work. Ulin will join ZYZZYVA managing editor Oscar Villalon for a conversation about the work and enduring impact of one of California’s most compelling voices. Details: Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post St., San Francisco, 6:30 p.m., free for Alta and Mechanics’ Institute members, $15 for the public.
Tuesday, January 14: Come meet Paul Hirsch, Oscar-winning film editor and author of A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away. The book provides a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most influential films of the last 50 years as seen through the eyes of Hirsch, who worked on such classics as George Lucas’s Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Brian De Palma’s Carrie and Mission: Impossible, Herbert Ross’s Footloose and Steel Magnolias, and John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Details: Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 7 p.m., free.
Wednesday, January 15: You don’t want to miss this exciting event with author James Alexander in conversation with Peter Coyote. Alexander was born and raised in Chicago. He was selected to attend the best public high school there and served in the United States Marines, where he was meritoriously promoted. Unfortunately, while serving as a successful Marine, Alexander participated in—and was convicted of—an accidental murder. He was released from prison in April 2011 after 28 years in the California prison system. With Courage in the Face of Cruelty, he takes the reader on a remarkable journey through his years in the California prison system, removing the veil of secrecy and opening the gates widely for all to see. Details: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 7 p.m., free.
Wednesday, January 15: Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Katherine Ellison discusses her compelling memoir, Mothers and Murderers: A True Story of Love, Lies, Obsession...and Second Chances. The book takes readers on a wild, tragicomic ride—from the criminal courtrooms of California’s Silicon Valley to the Himalayan mountains of Pakistan to the deserts of Ethiopia. In delightful, insightful prose, Ellison reflects on her mistakes and her triumphs as she weaves together the stories of how her acclaimed career almost ended before it began, how she nearly missed marrying the love of her life, and how she unwittingly got drawn into a stranger-than-fiction murder case. Details: Books Inc., 1491 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 7 p.m., free.
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