The diverse literary and arts Believer Festival returns to Las Vegas

John Hodgeman (Andy Kropa/AP), Tayari Jones (Nina Subin/Courtesy) and Aimee Mann (Evan Agostini/AP).

If for no other reason, the Believer Festival—coming to assorted venues April 13 and 14—deserves our admiration and support for not scheduling a single overlapping showcase. “No one should have to choose between events,” says Joshua Wolf Shenk, executive director of the festival’s sponsoring entity, the Beverly C. Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute. Unlike the Coachellas of this world, Believer Fest unfolds leisurely over just two days and four events. Life itself should be so easy.

But the festival, which returns in the afterglow of a wildly successful debut year, has more to offer than an easily-parsed schedule. Like The Believer magazine—the publishing of which BMI took over last year—the festival brings together writers, poets, journalists, comedians, artists and musicians in a confluence of inventive storytelling. Some advice: If any part of what you’re about to read grabs you, go to festival.blackmountaininstitute.org and reserve your tickets immediately. Two of the three free events have already filled up.

The opening-night event, Desert Songs: Hidden Tracks, set against the breathtaking natural backdrop of Red Rock Canyon, features High Fidelity author Nick Hornby; NEA poetry fellow Jericho Brown; Leslie Jamison, author of the upcoming alcoholism memoir The Recovering; Javon Johnson, director of African American and African Diaspora Studies at UNLV; two-time National Book Award finalist Rachel Kushner; The Weight of Shadows author Jose Orduña; and Fordham University Writer at Risk in Residence Kanchana Ugbabe. The amount of cultural and political ground these artists and activists will cover staggers the mind.

Saturday offers a hat-trick of must-see showcases. Writer’s Block Book Shop presents Thi Bui, whose graphic novel The Best We Could Do was called “one of the first great works of socially relevant comics art of the Trump era” by Vulture; and Zinzi Clemmons, associate editor of The Believer and author of the haunting novel What We Lose. (McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers hosts the event.) Next is Songs of Love and Betrayal at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, featuring Clark County poet laureate Vogue Robinson; readings by Mohsin Hamid (whose Exit West was named one of 2017’s best books by The New York Times) and Tayari Jones (recently named to Oprah’s Book Club for her An American Marriage); and a conversation between essayist Morgan Jerkins and the Oscar-winning writer-director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins. At press time some space at this one still remained, so move fast.

Last but not least is Laugh Tracks: The Believer Variety Show at Fremont Country Club, the only event with a paid ticket ($15). It features the Daily Show’s John Hodgman, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali and too many brilliant others to name here. Look, just go to as many events as you can. It’s the right choice.

BELIEVER FESTIVAL April 13-14, tmes & venues vary, festival.blackmountaininstitute.org.

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