Lots of stuff happened in 1848. Darwin came up with his evolution theory. James Marshall discovered gold in Coloma. Wars were kicking around all over Europe — the French, for one, overthrew their king in the name of democracy. It is in this momentous year, the pinnacle of the Victorian era, that Kurt Andersen sets his much anticipated and extremely well-reviewed new novel Heyday, in which young British aristocrat Benjamin Knowles — lover of all things American — inadvertently sets off a revolution before setting sail for New York. Knowles falls in love with a beautiful prostitute, and — trusty newfound friend and muckraking journalist Skaggs at his side — pursues her cross-country to the California gold rush. Andersen is the former editor in chief of New York magazine, and co-founder, with Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter, of the media rag Spy. (Perhaps you remember Spy Notes, the satirical version of Cliff’s Notes? I’m still chuckling over the entry for Bright Lights, Big City.) At 600 pages, his Heyday is Dickensian in scope and plotting, and is one of those historical novels best read into the wee hours of the night, when it’s sure to make you wistful for late-19th-century gas lamps, whose golden glow simultaneously revealed and hid a multitude of sins. Kurt Andersen reads and signs Heyday, Wed., March 28, 7:30 p.m., at Barnes & Noble, Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 260-9110.

LA Weekly