Louise Steinman, through the library's Aloud program, invites writers and thinkers to ponder L.A. and the world

In a backyard of unfinished projects, a writing shack rises on a slope of fruit trees, rosemary and sage. The woman inside may come across as prim. But she’ll crack you up if the mood strikes. The Hollywood sign hovers in the hills, and when she leaves the shack, passing the home of a long-dead film star, she drives downtown, where cranes rattle in the noisy remaking of Los Angeles.

Louise Steinman has for decades taken the short trip from her Silver Lake home to the central Los Angeles Public Library on 5th Street. The city has changed much, but the library, designed with a whisper from ancient Egypt, remains an elegant landmark bordered by skid row and high-rise architecture preening against the skyline. Steinman thinks a lot about how such contrasts echo through the city’s cultural and intellectual life.

“The phrase I’ve been working with lately is finding beauty in horror,” says Steinman, founder and curator of the library’s Aloud program, a lecture series that for 24 years has hosted writers, academics, scientists, musicians and artists to explore the human — as well as the L.A. — condition. “My father came here to reinvent himself after World War II, and it’s true you can constantly make things happen here that might not have been possible with a more strict tradition of art-making.”

Run by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, Aloud casts a wide range of ideas. Recent talks and discussions have included what happens when the FBI investigates the White House, an evening with Alan Alda, African literature, the biology of humans, and the national scourge of poverty and eviction. One night Rosanne Cash reminisces and sings; on another, musicians and critics debate the sexuality and significance of Prince.

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