5 Questions with Leonard Pitt, Author of My Brain on Fire

my brain on fireCity Lights is very pleased to welcome Leonard Pitt to the bookstore on March 15, 2016. Leonard will be reading from his memoir, My Brain on Fire: Paris and Other Obsessions, published by Soft Skull Press. Leonard answered our 5 questions, his answers are below.

Event: Tuesday, March 15, 2015 at 7:00PM, City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

About My Brain on Fire: This is Leonard Pitt’s story of growing up the misfit in Detroit in the 1940s and 50s. In a later age he would have been put on Ritalin and paraded before psychiatrists because he couldn’t pay attention in school. In 1962, at the end of a misguided foray towards a career in advertising he took the ultimate cure, a trip to Paris. He thought it would only be a visit. He stayed seven years. There in the City of Light, Leonard’s mind exploded. And it hasn’t stopped since.

Studying mime with master Etienne Decroux and living in Paris were the university he never knew. This inspiration unleashed a voracious appetite to understand the “why” of things. He asked a simple question, “Why did the ballet go up?” While building a theatre career performing and teaching, he embarked on a quest to study the origins of the ballet, the history of early American popular music, the pre-Socratic philosophers, early modern science, the European witch hunt, the history of Paris, and more. To his unschooled mind it all fits together. Who would see a historical arc between Louis XIV and Elvis Presley? Leonard does. And he’ll tell you about it.

leonard pittAbout Leonard Pitt: Leonard Pitt is an actor and author. He has written two books on Paris, Walks Through Lost Paris and Paris Postcards: The Golden Age, plus A Small Moment of Great Illumination, about the life of 17th century healer, Valentine Greatrakes. He currently co-directs The Flying Actor Studio, a conservatory for the study of physical theater located in San Francisco. He has performed and taught around the world and lives in Berkeley, California.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Leonard Pitt: My first time at CL was around 1970. I moved to Berkeley that year and certainly made this part of getting to know San Francisco. Book stores are temples of the mind, as vital and important as the cells in our brain. For they are our brain in all its color, richness and variety of experience. I remember wandering around and loving it. Every inch is
beauty.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?

LP: 17th century classical, Balinese gamelan, early jazz, French musette, early rock ’n roll, George Gershwin, Georges Brassens.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

LP: The one that sticks is Homer Price, second maybe Misty of Chincoteague.

CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

LP: Be a musician, guitar or piano, and sing. No doubt about it. I’m a born musician, I just got distracted. Whoever said there’s an after life, I’m going to hold them to it so I can come back and sing.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi). 

LP: My grandson, photos of all the family.


Join us on March 15, 2016 for Leonard Pitt reading from his book, My Brain on Fire. For more on Leonard, go to his official site and follow him on Twitter. Leonard also allowed us to explore his cottage in Berkeley while he talked about his book.

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