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Thursday

August 29

7 PM

A. B. Jewell

(Matt Richtel)

The Man Who Wouldn't Die

"HBO's Silicon Valley meets The Big Sleep" (Mark Maskell Smith): A hilarious neo-noir send-up of Silicon Valley, penned by an anonymous insider.

"DOES FOR SILICON VALLEY WHAT CARL HIAASEN DID FOR FLORIDA." --Tim DorseyTIM DORSEY

"THE MAN WHO WOULDN'T DIE IS DASHIELL HAMMETT 2.0: THE CLASSIC HARDBOILED DETECTIVE NOVEL, UPDATED FOR 21ST CENTURY SILICON VALLEY AND MADE HILARIOUS." --Brad Parks

Silicon Valley scion Captain Don Donogue is dead under mysterious circumstances. In fact, he might've well have been murdered. Just ask Captain Don himself. He's been sending messages about his suspicious death from beyond the grave. Yep, he's been tweeting from the afterlife. Or so it seems.

Could life-after-death be Silicon Valley's latest innovation? Our bodies die but our souls and social media accounts are eternal? This is the mystery that confronts the only sane person left in a region gone mad with greed, William Fitzgerald. Fitch. He's a world-class detective, tough, stoic, carries a big fist and a flip phone. He's a bad fit for Silicon Valley, where the law firms have drive-thru windows manned by barristeristas (who serve instant coffee and instant patents); attractive women aren't MILF's but TELFs (Tech Executives I'd Like To Fund); and couples are so anxious to get into the best free-play kindergartens that they get on the waiting list as soon as they freeze their sperm and eggs for later use.

One day, a woman knocks on Fitch's door. She's got a handful of cash and a wild story: She says that her father was Captain Don, or is Captain Don. He was killed, or maybe not. He's tweeting from beyond. Fitch takes the case and goes into the belly of the valley, discovering that life and death, well, sometimes they're just another transaction....

Original, clever, and hysterical, The Man Who Wouldn't Die is the Carl Hiaasen of Silicon Valley and neo-noir at its unforgettable best.

A. B. Jewell is the pseudonym for a Pulitzer Prize-winning technology reporter. He lives in San Francisco.

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**WEST PORTAL LITERARY FESTIVAL

SEPTEMBER 10TH-14TH**

Tuesday

September 10

7 PM

Amor Towles

A Gentleman In Moscow

The mega-bestseller with more than 1.5 million readers that is soon to be a major television series

One of five Summer 2019 reading picks by Bill Gates

"The novel buzzes with the energy of numerous adventures, love affairs, [and] twists of fate." --The Wall Street Journal

He can't leave his hotel. You won't want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility--a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. 

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

 

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller and was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. His second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, was also a New York Times bestseller and was named as one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago TribuneThe Washington PostThe Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and NPR. His work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Having worked as an investment professional for more than twenty years, Mr. Towles now devotes himself full time to writing in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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Thursday

September 12

7 PM

Emma Donoghue

 

Akin

A retired New York professor's life is thrown into chaos when he takes a young great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother's wartime secrets in the next masterpiece from New York Times bestselling author Emma Donoghue. 
Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he's discovered from his mother's wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he's never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip. 
Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy's truculent wit, and Michael's ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family's past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.

 

Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room an international bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy, born two generations apart, who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.

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Friday

September 13

7 PM

Sean Carroll

Something Deeply Hidden

 Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime

"Deftly unmasks quantum weirdness to reveal a strange but utterly wondrous reality."
--Brian Greene

 

As you read these words, copies of you are being created.

 

Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and one of this world's most celebrated writers on science, rewrites the history of 20th century physics. Already hailed as a masterpiece, Something Deeply Hidden shows for the first time that facing up to the essential puzzle of quantum mechanics utterly transforms how we think about space and time. His reconciling of quantum mechanics with Einstein's theory of relativity changes, well, everything.

 

Most physicists haven't even recognized the uncomfortable truth: physics has been in crisis since 1927. Quantum mechanics has always had obvious gaps--which have come to be simply ignored. Science popularizers keep telling us how weird it is, how impossible it is to understand. Academics discourage students from working on the "dead end" of quantum foundations. Putting his professional reputation on the line with this audacious yet entirely reasonable book, Carroll says that the crisis can now come to an end. We just have to accept that there is more than one of us in the universe. There are many, many Sean Carrolls. Many of every one of us.

 

Copies of you are generated thousands of times per second. The Many Worlds Theory of quantum behavior says that every time there is a quantum event, a world splits off with everything in it the same, except in that other world the quantum event didn't happen. Step-by-step in Carroll's uniquely lucid way, he tackles the major objections to this otherworldly revelation until his case is inescapably established.

 

Rarely does a book so fully reorganize how we think about our place in the universe. We are on the threshold of a new understanding--of where we are in the cosmos, and what we are made of.

 

SEAN CARROLL is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, host of the Mindscape podcast, and author of From Eternity to Here, The Particle at the End of the Universe, and The Big Picture. He has been awarded prizes and fellowships by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the American Institute of Physics, and the Royal Society of London, among many others. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer Jennifer Ouellette.

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Saturday

September 14

Children's Day

1 PM

SASHA DE SOLA AND C.V. MONTERRUBIO

Prima Ballerina from SF Ballet Sasha De Sola and author C.V. Monterrubio  present their new illustrated bilingual book: On tiptoes • De puntitas which features two stories, one based on Sasha’s ballet career up to date and another one of a boy that gets inspired by her to be a dancer himself. Both stories offer a moral that can be applied to life beyond ballet: resilience, overcoming life obstacles and following your heart and your passion regardless of hardship.
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Wednesday

September 25

7 PM

Gary Marcus

Rebooting AI

Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust

Two leaders in the field offer a compelling analysis of the current state of the art and reveal the steps we must take to achieve a truly robust artificial intelligence.

 

Despite the hype surrounding AI, creating an intelligence that rivals or exceeds human levels is far more complicated than we have been led to believe. Professors Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis have spent their careers at the forefront of AI research and have witnessed some of the greatest milestones in the field, but they argue that a computer beating a human in Jeopardy! does not signal that we are on the doorstep of fully autonomous cars or superintelligent machines. The achievements in the field thus far have occurred in closed systems with fixed sets of rules, and these approaches are too narrow to achieve genuine intelligence.

 

The real world, in contrast, is wildly complex and open-ended. How can we bridge this gap? What will the consequences be when we do? Taking inspiration from the human mind, Marcus and Davis explain what we need to advance AI to the next level, and suggest that if we are wise along the way, we won't need to worry about a future of machine overlords. If we focus on endowing machines with common sense and deep understanding, rather than simply focusing on statistical analysis and gatherine ever larger collections of data, we will be able to create an AI we can trust--in our homes, our cars, and our doctors' offices. Rebooting AI provides a lucid, clear-eyed assessment of the current science and offers an inspiring vision of how a new generation of AI can make our lives better.

GARY MARCUS is a scientist, best-selling author, and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Robust.AI and was founder and CEO of Geometric Intelligence, a machine-learning company acquired by Uber in 2016. He is the author of five books, including Kluge, The Birth of the Mind, and the New York Times best seller Guitar Zero.

 

 

 

 

Thursday

September 26

7 PM

Charles Postel

Equality

An American Dilemma, 1866-1896

An in-depth study of American social movements after the Civil War and their lessons for today by a prizewinning historian

The Civil War unleashed a torrent of claims for equality--in the chaotic years following the war, former slaves, women's rights activists, farmhands, and factory workers all engaged in the pursuit of the meaning of equality in America. This contest resulted in experiments in collective action, as millions joined leagues and unions. In Equality: An American Dilemma, 1866-1886, Charles Postel demonstrates how taking stock of these movements forces us to rethink some of the central myths of American history.

Despite a nationwide push for equality, egalitarian impulses oftentimes clashed with one another. These dynamics get to the heart of the great paradox of the fifty years following the Civil War and of American history at large: Waves of agricultural, labor, and women's rights movements were accompanied by the deepening of racial discrimination and oppression. Herculean efforts to overcome the economic inequality of the first Gilded Age and the sexual inequality of the late-Victorian social order emerged alongside Native American dispossession, Chinese exclusion, Jim Crow segregation, and lynch law.

Now, as Postel argues, the twenty-first century has ushered in a second Gilded Age of savage socioeconomic inequalities. Convincing and learned, Equality explores the roots of these social fissures and speaks urgently to the need for expansive strides toward equality to meet our contemporary crisis.

Charles Postel is the author of The Populist Vision, which received the 2008 Bancroft Prize and the 2008 Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians. He is a professor of history at San Francisco State University and was elected to the Society of American Historians in 2018.