Some actors are so incredibly effective playing certain roles that you really think they'll be the same kind of assholes if you meet them. There are the painfully unctuous parts played by Catherine Keener; Rachael Harris' venomous and hateful harpy in The Hangover -- and then there's Jeff Garlin, who plays chortlesome sociopath Jeff Greene, Larry David's manager, on Curb Your Enthusiasm. So convincing is Garlin as this ultra-clod that you'd never think he'd possess any amount of subtlety greater than that of acid rain. And yet Garlin's Reading Group tonight discusses Bernard Malamud's A New Life ($15, Farrar, Straus & Giroux), the 1961 novel that represents an unheralded aspect of Malamud's yearning body of work. It's about an alcoholic schoolteacher's voyage to the forests of the Pacific Northwest to kick-start his life. Blinded by the allure of both illusions -- "Here to Go" and "Westward Ho" -- he falls back into his old habits, and, to paraphrase another impressively vile actor's character, although the faces have changed, the failures are just the same.
Wed., Jan. 19, 7 p.m., 2011