For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Larry S. McGrath writes about the growing role of neuroscience in writing new historical narratives. McGrath frames this discussion in a review of historian Lynn Hunt’s Writing History in the Global Era, looking particularly at her claim of a “biochemical revolution” in shaping the modern consciousness....more
Posts Tagged: Los Angeles Review of Books
I took the part of me that was the most sensitive, and I asked what it would be like to be the most raw version of myself, in a world that is actually pushing in on me.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, debut novelist Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, talks about the writer’s life, defining moments, and the intersection of beauty and technology....more
Radio is undergoing the sort of DIY revolution that journalism faced with the advent of blogs. If ‘Out on the Wire’ helps convince the legions of amateur podcasters that good radio is far more than recording hour upon hour of unedited gabbing, it will be not only useful and fun but that much rarer thing: a public service.
In a hauntingly poignant review of Helen Macdonald’s lovely H Is for Hawk, the Los Angeles Review of Books’s Dinah Lenney writes about her own experience of loss and the turning toward the natural world:
In grief, what I found: birds reassure.
Wallace coined the helpful term “blurbspeak,” which he defined as “a very special subdialect of English that’s partly hyperbole, but it’s also phrases that sound really good and are very compelling in an advertorial sense, but if you think about them, they’re literally meaningless.”
Though David Foster Wallace was somewhat skeptical about book blurbs, he wasn’t unlikely to recommend books himself from time to time....more
He is one of the only artists … who actually seemed to enjoy his journey, both spiritual and musical. Plus, he seemed to learn something profound with each step of his way, until completely formed as an artist.
In a critique of composer Philip Glass’s memoir Words Without Music, the Los Angeles Review of Books explores Glass’s rise as a composer and musician, his discovery of his musical style, and the great loves of his life....more
Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Casey Michael Henry considers Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly a new bid to revive a “Black Postmodernism”:
Not only does the album fulfill many specific qualities of postmodernism, and postmodernism specifically shaped by black experience, but also does so within a form traditionally consigned to canonical, usually white, “masters” like Melville and Pynchon.
To form secrets with a city is to treat it like a lover, to imagine you know it better than anyone, but to still expect it to surprise you for years to come. It is the secret to all rewarding travel and to inspired living.
I’m in my 30s and haven’t married yet, but marriage is not in my own top five questions and hasn’t been for some time. I’m much more interested in whether I’ll write a book or have kids, and much more defined and governed by race, class, gender, and the changing climate.
Writers, Sontag believed, if they are any good at all, are obliged to try to understand the forces that shape us. They seek to give us a more truthful sense of things, a more nuanced sense of the world we inhabit…They write to help us understand what, for many, eludes understanding.
Does perception provide us with an accurate picture of reality? To what extent is our environment a reflection of our psychological state? UCLA Philosophy Professor Josh Armstrong examines all sorts of thought-provoking questions in his critique of John Searle’s Seeing Things As They Are in the Los Angeles Review of Books....more
I felt the bios and intros depleted the magic. Each sequence of words is a spell, and when you follow one spell with another spell, they compound, building off the energy of the previous spell. It reinforces the inherent value of language.
Kazuo Ishiguro is interviewed at the Los Angeles Review of Books; among other things, the writer touches on world-building, jumping genres, and why, sometimes, it takes a little while to get where you’re going:
Well, it took me four years or five years before I came up with my second novel, and that wasn’t a strategy, that was just how long it took.
If we want to mistake success in Hollywood for a state of grace, then Welles is our Lucifer — the archangel closest to the Almighty whose beastly arrogance is to blame for whatever hell he woke up in. But what if Hollywood, and Welles, are neither of those things?
(n.); the last thing, as a theological reference to the climax of history at Judgment Day; the day at the end of time following Armageddon when God will decree the fates of all human beings; from the ancient Greek eskhatos (“end”)
“My mind moves toward apocalypse fictions the way we think about a forgotten friend, or a partner that’s left us—grief becomes its own comfort.”
–Adnan Khan, “Finding a Home in the Apocalypse”
The past decade has seen a fantastic resurgence of the apocalypse—thankfully, only of the fictional variety....more
When I left the border for college some years ago, I dreamed of permanent escape; and, like Domingo Martinez, I turned to song to process my feelings.
Using W.H. Auden and his predecessor, Rabelais, Nina Martyris discusses in the Los Angeles Review of Books how irony is being implemented to confront the tragedy of Charlie Hebdo:
So how should one respond? Anger and grief are appropriate enough.
I think what tends to be truly unspeakable in our current culture is not when someone is honest about her mistakes or struggles, but rather when she fails to learn from them, fails to transform on some level.
Art isn’t just for fans, which means that it’s not just for the knowledgeable, but for passersby as well. Expertise, then, seems an excuse to make everyone talk about the same things in the same way.
For the LA Review of Books, Noah Berlatsky writes about ignorant commenters, outsider critics, and elitist experts and argues that, sometimes, the perspectives of the former two are more useful and illuminating than that of the latter....more
All of that is to say that because Tom Wolfe and because James Baldwin and Hunter S. Thompson and Michael Herr, but because Didion most of all, an American essay today without the sudden and revelatory personal aside is hardly an American essay at all.
Sensational headlines declaiming the death of the humanities often misunderstand what the humanities actually are. Paul A. Kottman explains that the practice of analyzing texts doesn’t just teach us how to think; it creates new ways of thinking:
Whatever we learn by reflecting on literary texts in our teaching is the direct outcome of those very same activities.
Jessica Gross riffs on Matteo Pericoli for the LARB, where she stands in support of the cosmopolitan. Her essay ruminates on place in art, foreign inspiration, and the mystique underlying location:
The obvious motive — to discover how artists work, as if we might successfully copy their routines — is only part of our fascination; we’re also driven by fear.
Rumpus contributor J. Ryan Stradal edited the recently published California Prose Directory: New Writing from the Gold State, Number 2. The anthology’s goal? To find the best new practitioners of Californian prose. Down at LARB, Dinah Lenney quizzes Stradal on just how impossible that is:
Like a lot of people, when I think of California prose, I think of writers like Joan Didion, John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, Michelle Tea, Luis J.