There's nothing that publishers seem to like more than a celebratory event on which to hang their debuting books. Houghton Mifflin marked impressionist Edgar Degas' 150th birthday by issuing Roy McMullen's "Degas: His Life, Times and Work" ($29.95), shortly before Christmas, neatly timed to coincide with exhibitions around the country. The University of California Press, "In celebration of the centenary anniversary of the first American publication of the 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' " will offer two different editions of the Mark Twain classic in February. One will contain annotations, a glossary of slang and dialect words as well as the first edition illustrations by Edward Windsor Kemble ($16.50; $5.95, paperback). The other will be a facsimile of the Pennyroyal Press limited edition, illustrated by Barry Moser's wood engravings ($24.95).
McGraw-Hill, meanwhile, is celebrating Bach's 300th birthday with Herbert Kupferberg's "Basically Bach" (March; $12.95), described as "a lighthearted look at the life of, life with and life after Johann Sebastian Bach." Doubleday is wishing Jane Austen a happy 209th birthday with the publication of "Mansfield Revisited" (March; $13.95), Joan Aiken's continuation of the late novelist's "Mansfield Park." One wonders how thrilled Miss Austen would have been with this curious birthday "gift."
EVENTS-- Monday: 1 p.m., Hilma Wolitzer reads from her "The Palomar Arms" on KCRW (89.9 FM). . . . 4 p.m., Shelly Lowenkopf and Digby Wolfe begin a series of comedy writing courses for USC's Professional Writing Program; details: 743-8255. . . . 7:30 p.m., public relations expert Henry C. Rogers ("Rogers' Rules for Success") begins a six-week course on "The Politics of Success" with guests Frank Yablans, Iris Dugow and others. For information call UCLA Extension, 825-0641. . . . 8 p.m., the UCLA Student Committee for the Arts presents "The Freeway Series," devoted to the spoken arts, with poets Shredder and Henry Rollins, at UCLA Kerckhoff Coffeehouse; on Wednesday, Wanda Coleman, Ivan Roth and Jill Fraser, and Friday, Dave Alvin and John Doe, same time, same place. . . .
Tuesday: noon, Peter Feibleman ("Eating Together"), Bob Howland ("Writing Fiction, Nonfiction, and How To Publish"), Bob Thomas ("Astaire"), Laurence J. Peter ("Why Things Go Wrong") and Fred Alan Wolf ("Star-Wave: Mind, Consciousness and Quantum Physics") are guest speakers at the Enda Davidson Book Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton; reservations: 475-2948. . . . 7-10 p.m., Adam Dawson of the Orange County Register chairs a class in "Fundamentals of Reporting" for UCLA Extension; Tuesdays, through March 12; call 825-0641. . . . 7:30 p.m., the Women's National Book Assn. presents a discussion of "Problems Facing Independent Booksellers" with Vroman's Ed Fitzpatrick, Dodd's Kim Browning, Dozier Hammond of UCLA's Student Store, Larry Todd of Hunter's and publisher's representative Ed Arnold, who certainly has his work cut out for him, at Mercury Savings (10435 Santa Monica Blvd.); call Lou, (818) 789-9175. . . . 10 p.m., Arthur Hailey ("Strong Medicine") and David Schoenbrun ("America Inside Out") talk with Connie Martinson on Group W's Ch. 10 and Valley Cable's Ch. 57. . . .
Wednesday: 11 a.m., Peter Collier (co-author of "The Kennedys") discusses his work at University of Redlands' Willis Student Center; call (714) 793-2121. . . . Thursday: 2 p.m., sharp, Ann Stanford reads her poetry at the Huntington Library in San Marino. Call (818) 405-2100. . . . 5:30 p.m., playwrights Oliver Hailey, Susan La Tempa, Peter Stone and Marsha Norman discuss theatrical contracts for the Dramatists Guild, at Theater West (3333 Cahuenga Blvd.); interested dramatists should call Dan Fendel at 470-3683. . . . 7-10 p.m., film, TV, art, jazz, theater and food critics take part in "Evenings Out With the Critics" for UCLA Extension, Thursdays, through Feb. 7. Call 825-0641. . . . 8 p.m., EZTV Video Gallery presents two video tapes, "What Happened to Kerouac?" and "Stories From Los Angeles," readings by contemporary L.A. poets, at three locations: continuing through next Sunday at 8543 Santa Monica Blvd. (657-1532); Friday, only, at 417 Colorado Ave. in Santa Monica (394-9696) and 1503 Cahuenga Blvd. (464-7871). $4. . . .
Friday: 8 p.m., Ray Bradbury guests at a meeting of Southwest Manuscripters, at Sam Levy School in Torrance, 3420 229th Place; free to public. . . . 8 p.m., Herbert Gold ("Mister White Eyes") reads from his work at Beyond Baroque in Venice (681 Venice Blvd.); call 822-3006; $5. . . .
Saturday: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friends of the Santa Monica Library host a book sale at the Library (1343 6th St.). . . . 7:30 p.m., Carolyn Weathers reads from her work at A Different Light (4014 Santa Monica Blvd.)
FINALLY--Now that the successful, "soon-to-be-a-motion picture," Destroyer series has moved to NAL, Pinnacle is reissuing a number of earlier titles in a new Authors' Choice format. The first of these, "Chinese Puzzle," a 1972 adventure, carries a brief introduction in which writers Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir explain a bit about the creation of the series. This is followed by a second introduction by one of the series' leads, an acerbic, ancient Korean master of mystical arts named Chiun, who states: "You have just read a pack of lies, written by two idiots, and published by a third. . . . They call this book Authors' Choice. Morons' Choice would be more like it. You would be well-advised to ignore this garbage." It sort of reminds one of the "Twilight Zone" episode where Cliff Robertson loses control of his ventriloquist dummy.
Send material for Book Notes to Dick Lochte, P.O. Box 5413, Santa Monica 90405 no later than 10 days before issue date.