Brentwood - Thursday September 7th at 6:30 pm -- Dan O'Brien (and friends) discusses and signs "Survivor’s Notebook" and "From Scarsdale" and "True Story: A Trilogy".

photo of Dan O'Brien and friends with book covers Join us on Thursday September 7th at 6:30 pm as we welcome Dan O'Brien to the store to discuss and sign "Survivor’s Notebook" and "From Scarsdale" and "True Story: A Trilogy". Friends joining Dan in conversation and reading will be Casey Wilson, Danielle Schneider, Dan O’Brien, Jason Mantzoukas, Jessica St. Clair, Julia Louis-Dreyfus , June Diane Raphael , Kyle Bornheimer, Lennon Parham, Melissa Rauch, Noah Bean, Nate Corddry , Paul Scheer, and Tony Hale.
This event is free to attend and will be held in the courtyard at DIESEL, A Bookstore in Brentwood.
Free seating is limited. To reserve a seat, please purchase one copy of a book for one seat. 

Dan O’Brien is a poet, playwright, and nonfiction writer who will publish three books in September: Survivor’s Notebook (poems), From Scarsdale (memoir), and True Story: A Trilogy (plays). His previous poetry collections are Our CancersWar Reporter (winner of the UK’s Fenton Aldeburgh Prize), New Life, and Scarsdale. His poems have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals including The Hopkins ReviewNorth American ReviewPoetry IrelandPoetry ReviewThe Southern ReviewThe Times (UK), Yale Review, and ZYZZYVA. O’Brien is the recipient of playwriting honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship and two PEN America Awards. His plays have premiered off-Broadway, regionally, and internationally. His nonfiction has been published in The American ScholarThe GuardianLiterary HubNew England ReviewThe New York TimesThe Paris ReviewThe Times Literary Supplement, and The Washington Post. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actor and writer Jessica St. Clair, and their daughter Isobel.

Survivor’s Notebook, a powerful companion to 2021’s Our Cancers, catalogs the recovery of a cancer survivor, whose wife has recently survived her own cancer, as he returns to his daily life while raising a young daughter. This prose-poem sequence is truly a survivor’s notebook, using photos and the tools of memoir to evoke the ways in which disaster can constellate our past, present, and future. In his poems, plays, and nonfiction, Dan O’Brien has explored, as he says in a 2023 interview, “how trauma shatters identity, and in its aftermath we reconfigure and rewrite, as it were, the story of who we were and are and maybe will be.” In highly personal poems reminiscent of dramatic monologues, as well as shorter lyric fragments, the protagonist reconsiders the people and places he knew before his illness, including his estranged family and others with cancer. While looking back he moves forward again, revisiting Ireland, resuming his career as a writer and teacher, and making a kind of pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is a confiding and at times comical tone in these poems, as he awakens to the delights, absurdities, and wonders of existence, and as he and his wife work through the aftershocks of their trauma toward a deeper love. With text and image, Survivor’s Notebook shows how we go on, with resilience, gratitude, and joy, when “the emergency’s elsewhere” now. 

From Scarsdale is an evocative and lyrical memoir of a haunted childhood in Scarsdale, New York. With a cancer diagnosis in his early forties, the author is compelled to revisit and resolve the mystery of his family’s sadness. The fourth of six children in an Irish American household distinctly out-of-place in this affluent suburb of New York City, O’Brien grows up in a claustrophobic milieu of secrecy, lies, and mental illness. The turning point in his maturation is an older brother’s attempted suicide — an event he witnesses firsthand. From Scarsdale traces with sensitivity the complex histories and dynamics that lead to this trauma, as O’Brien investigates the psychologies of his parents, themselves the survivors of painful childhoods in Scarsdale. Then, simultaneously disturbed and catalyzed by his brother’s depression, and his own developing obsessive-compulsive disorder, the adolescent O’Brien discovers literature and the theatre as an escape, though it will take years for an actual liberation to occur. In many ways this memoir is that liberation, as his ambition here has been to tell “the story of who I am and where I’m from, with honesty, insight, and something like forgiveness. To try to leave the old place behind.

True Story: A Trilogy gathers together three documentary plays by acclaimed playwright and poet Dan O’Brien concerning trauma, both political and personal. The Body of an American speaks to a moment in history when a single, stark photograph—of a US Army Ranger dragged from the wreckage of a Black Hawk helicopter through the streets of Mogadishu—altered the course of global events. In a story that ranges from Rwanda to Afghanistan to the Canadian Arctic, O’Brien dramatizes the ethical and psychological haunting of journalist Paul Watson. In The House in Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage the playwright applies journalistic principles to an investigation of his childhood unhappiness, as he searches for the reason why his parents and siblings cut him off years ago. The more he learns about his family, the more mysterious the circumstances surrounding their estrangement become, until his sense of self is shaken by rumors regarding his true parentage. The trilogy concludes with New Life, a tragicomedy that finds Paul Watson in Syria and the playwright in treatment for cancer, while together they endeavor to sell a TV series about journalists in war zones. New Life explores the paradox of war as entertainment, and dares to dream of healing after catastrophe. These three gritty yet poetic plays stand as a testament to the value of witnessing, honoring, and perhaps transcending the struggles of living. 

*Author photo credit is Cambridge Jones

Event date: 
Thursday, September 7, 2023 - 6:30pm
Event address: 
225 26th St
Suite 33
Santa Monica, CA 90402
Event Type: 
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