'Zealot' Author Reza Aslan to Host Book Series at West Hollywood Nightclub

Martine Sprangers

The Jesus biographer, who became a Fox News lightning rod during an appearance on the network last year, will welcome B.J. Novak as his first guest.

West Hollywood nightspot DBA -- which is currently home to the popular musical show For the Record: Tarantino -- will soon make way for another series: The Writers’ Room with Reza Aslan. Host Aslan, an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, lit up website comment sections worldwide last July after an interview with Fox News, in which anchor Lauren Green attacked him -- and promptly was widely ridiculed -- for writing a book about Jesus when he is a Muslim. His book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which has been translated into 27 languages since it came out in 2013, looks at the life of Jesus from a historical perspective.

Starting June 4, and then the first Wednesday of each month through the end of the year, The Writer’s Room will present discussions with authors in an evening dressed up with cocktails and a live house band. “It’s a great venue," says Aslan of DBA, a minimalist space that functions alternately as a dance club, theater, concert hall and gallery space. “The way they set the tables and the booths around are really fantastic. The bar is amazing. What better way to talk about books than with a drink in your hand. This is a place where people understand the value of the word because it’s what gives life to the entire industry. It’s the perfect city for something like this.”

The premiere guest is author and actor B.J. Novak of The Office fame. He’s also author of The New York Times best-seller One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, a work of fiction.

“In a sense, B.J. represents the perfect guest for this house,” Aslan says. “He’s a screenwriter, television writer, he writes books. He’s somebody who’s comfortable in multiple genres. He understands the writing life and can talk about it in both an intelligent but also an interesting way. He basically sets the tenor for what we want to do with the program.”

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The discussion will resemble Inside the Actors Studio, says Aslan, who developed the idea in conjunction with the company that owns DBA, Cardiff Giant. Aslan hopes to replicate the success of For the Record: Tarantino, which is a musical mashup of Quentin Tarantino’s many films’ soundtracks, like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Its rotating cast of performers has included indie singers, movie and TV stars and Broadway alums.

Future guests of the new author series include Tim Kring, Lawrence Wright, Sarah Vowell, Gideon Raff, Jon Ronson and T.C. Boyle. Tickets are $20 per person and seating is first come, first served. Tickets are available online at www.dbahollywood.com.

As for his fame by way of Fox News and the viral video his appearance spawned, Aslan (speaking by phone from Sydney, Australia, one of his stops on an international book tour) says he’s still amazed by how many people still bring it up -- all over the world. “Oh my god, are you kidding me? Everywhere I go, no matter what language," he says. "The thing that is shocking to me is that I get emails from Bangladesh, from the Philippines, from Thailand, from people who have seen the interview and react to it in a very passionate way. They want to talk about what it represents, what it says about America, what is says about the media. Most everybody has heard of Fox News and knows where it’s coming from.”

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Part of the outpouring of interest he attributes to schadenfreude. “So many people loathe Fox News. There’s a sense of delight in having it have a bit of a comeuppance. You can’t help but feel a little bit better,” says Aslan.

But he says he tries to be understanding of Green’s reaction. “I have total compassion to the sense of feeling your faith is under attack somehow by some outsider," he says. "That’s beyond the fact that she’s a journalist who didn’t bother to prepare for her interview. She’s a bad journalist, but she’s a good Christian.”