Steve Lopez Up Close

The Soloist author visits the Haverford Township Free Library Jan. 15.

The Free Library of Philadelphia’s One Book, One Philadelphia program is taking its Jan. 15 read to the ’burbs with a visit from Steve Lopez at the Haverford Township Free Library.

If his name doesn’t ring at least one bell, then you haven’t been paying attention. Between 1985 and 1997, Lopez held court as one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s preeminent writers. His award-winning talents landed him a gig at Time, Inc., where he spent four years accruing bylines in Time, Sports Illustrated, Life and Entertainment Weekly. His journalistic prowess paved a new path in 2001 when the native Californian took a position at the Los Angeles Times.

A writer of many stripes, Lopez has penned three novels and one nonfiction book, The Soloist, which came out in March 2008. The true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a former Juilliard student gifted in classical bass, who turns homeless and meets Lopez while standing on a corner playing a two-stringed violin. As the story unfolds, Lopez discovers that Ayers has spent the past 30 years battling schizophrenia—and all the unimaginable real-life horrors of living on the streets. Upon realizing that Ayers’ musical dreams have been derailed, Lopez begins bringing him new instruments and serving as an advocate to get Ayers off the streets. An obviously emotional venture for Lopez, the story is rife with triumph and defeat—of the heart and of the mind.

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Author Steve LopezAnd, like any genuinely good story, The Soloist is perfect for retelling on the big screen. This is more than just 15 minutes of fame: both Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. are leading cast members, with Downey starring as Lopez. A writer’s dream come true, The Soloist is a wonderful personal and professional accomplishment for Lopez, surely at the pinnacle of his career.

The author’s visit to the Haverford Township Free Library is a not-to-be-missed event for both readers and writers, or for anyone who’s been touched by this devastating mental disorder. And since the movie isn’t due out until April, you’ve still got time to read the book. Lopez will start the evening with a reception and book signing from 6-7 p.m. at the library before moving to Haverford High School’s auditorium for an “Author Talk” from 7:30-9 p.m.

Tickets are required for this event. They may be purchased in advance at the library’s Circulation Desk for $5 or at the door for $7. One ticket covers both events. In addition, both organizations request a donation of one nonperishable food item to either program to help fill the area’s food cupboards.

Lopez’s visit to Haverford Township is a collaboration between the Haverford Township Free Library, the School District of Haverford Township and One Book, One Philadelphia, with the generous funding support of the Haverford Township Rotary Club. To those unfamiliar with the city’s unique literacy program, One Book, One Philadelphia aims to promote reading, literacy and libraries, and to encourage unity through reading and discussing a single book. Think of it as the City of Brotherly Love’s egalitarian book club.

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