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.
Posts Tagged: Los Angeles Review of Books
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. Art holds sway over us in ways that we don’t understand.
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.
Stephin Merritt, besides being the lead singer/songwriter in beloved indie band Magnetic Fields, is a talented poet. His latest collection of short poems is a trip into the world of two-letter words allowed on Scrabble. Merritt shares the stories behind the new book with Sarah Mesle in an interview for the Los Angeles Review of Books....more
I imagined if I had been writing in the 1950s and 1960s, I, too, may have been writing for the pulps. I got the sense that [Jim] saw me as a kindred spirit, that I reminded him of himself as a young(ish) pulp writer trying to find success in an uncertain industry.
Reflecting on what might become of Roberto Bolaño, and his fame, John Yargo covers two biographies of the Chilean writer for the Los Angeles Review of Books, noting that these scholars had to “face a unique problem”:
The seductive popular image of [Bolaño]—something like a better-read Burroughs—is at odds with the voice of his fiction and his essays, which tends to be more generous, expansive, and penetrating than his image suggests.
[O]ne of the benefits of not having studied literature in a traditional sense is that my relationship with the canon is not, um, a tight relationship, not an embrace.
Daniel Alarcòn sits down with Los Angeles Review of Books Editor in Chief Tom Lutz for a deep interview on Alarcòn’s education, writing, and radio project....more
I agree that The Other Side is, in part, about how I’ve learned to claim my body as my own, but it’s also about claiming my voice, and about how those two things are not as separate as you might initially think.
On Tuesday, Tony Earley released a new collection of stories, Mr. Tall. Two decades have passed since Earley’s debut collection, Here We Are in Paradise, and though he has released two novels and a memoir since that time, for short fiction addicts (and lovers of southern writing), the publication of a new book of stories is big news....more
In an interview with Daniel Olivas for the Los Angeles Review of Books, debut novelist Natalia Sylvester talks about growing up in Peru, learning characters’ secrets, and what happens when you set aside a story for nearly six years. “Our pasts are never left behind,” she concludes ominously....more
At the Los Angeles Review of Books, editor and founder of Bookslut.com Jessa Crispin writes on feminism in its contemporary incarnation by way of two recent critiques of 50 Shades of Grey. She draws a distinction between feminism (a discourse) and feminism (a table-turning form of social domination) wherein “The bullied become the bullies [and the] abused become the abusers.”
Any sort of societal critique is thrown at a patriarchal straw man, as if all we have to do is get 50 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs to be female and an equal number of female bylines at The New York Times to have a better world.
For her “The Poems (We Think) We Know” column at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Alexandra Socarides writes about Emily Dickinson’s celebrated “I’m Nobody! Who are you?,” debunking its commonly held interpretation:
There is a seemingly stark private/public dichotomy laid out by the poem’s two stanza structure.
In their first joint project, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Los Angeles Magazine recently released what they call a “multimedia collaborative story,” Geoff Nicholas Maps a Territory. The piece supplements the release of Nicholson’s new novel, The City Under the Skin, and it documents—in print, video, and photographs—a walk taken by the author and his friend, critic Anthony Miller, “to explore a series of urban ruins” allegedly “hidden in plain sight,” all the way from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Joan Didion’s old residence....more
Black to the future was/is a radical, dangerous, and daring dream—an impossibility. Science fiction and fantasy (sf&f) is a rehearsal of the impossible, an ideal realm for redefinition and reinvention. For Africans and their descendants in the diaspora, decolonizing our mind/body/spirits was/is an on-going sf&f project.
“Sexuality is more than gay and straight, and probably even more than LGBTQIA. Comics are here to help.” So read the delightful subhed for Greg Baldino’s LARB review of two anthologies of comics about gender and sexuality.
The books are The Big Feminist But and Anything That Loves, and though he’s frustrated by certain limitations, he also finds much to praise, including a comic by our very own MariNaomi....more
But as I turned over the glossy, hardbound book in my hands, the seductive, bespectacled young woman with jasmine in her hair and an unusually large revolver in her hand beckoned with a look that both allured and mystified. What, I wondered, had my grandmother been reading all these years?
“Fiction is, of course, serving rearguard here; the last decade has seen Iraq War films, poetry collections, documentaries, and non-fiction books too numerous to list, but part of what’s appealing about examining American Iraq War fiction now is that there isn’t that much yet.
Somewhere between its Kmart and hysterical phases, literary realism got shaken up, when a group of young women writers began crafting a spectral brand of fantastical, strange fiction….Permeating the stories is a sense of omnipresent strangeness made visible.
The Los Angeles Review of Books has a great piece on “our current bumper crop” of women writing—choose your favorite term—magical realism or speculative fiction or just really cool weird stuff....more
It’s often said “The Sixties” officially began with the death of JFK and America’s “loss of innocence.” But without the dedicated and well-documented cosmic explorations of Aldous Huxley and his cohorts, the decade would have looked very different.
Steffie Nelson retraces the notable life and work of the Aldous Huxley after he moved to California in a brilliant essay over at the Los Angeles Review of Books....more
At the Los Angeles Review of Books this week, Stephen Burt reviews the anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics and discusses how poetry allows us, reader and author alike, to inhabit a body or being better or very different from the one we were born in....more
If the expo serves as any indication, Shanghai has considerably more book enthusiasts than I had suspected, even though just a couple of days earlier The Atlantic had published an article about the decline of reading in China.
For the LA Review of Books blog, Maura Elizabeth Cunningham covers the Shanghai Book Fair.
Some years ago I attended a [Margaret Atwood] reading….She introduced the story she read by saying that it was not autobiographical. Then she read her story about a woman who weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 300 pounds. When she was done, and the Q&A started, the first question was: “Miss Atwood, how did you lose all that weight?”
The Los Angeles Review of Books has a fascinating interview with several writers, including our very own David Biespiel, about the wriggly nature of truth in writing of any genre, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir—anything....more
Three of our favorite publications—the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Toast, and the New Inquiry—are joining forces to create a SXSW panel.
Titled “Rebooting Cultural Criticism on the Web,” the panel hopes to address questions like: “How do we make literary and cultural criticism work in new ways on the web?...more
In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called “Books vs. Cigarettes,” trying to figure out which habit cost him more and whether books were simply out of some people’s financial reach.
For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Kaya Genç updates the calculations in an essay titled “Ebooks vs....more
You may have seen, over the weekend, an exceedingly squirm-worthy video in which a Fox News correspondent grills religious historian and scholar Reza Aslan about why he’s written a book about Jesus despite being Muslim (completely ignoring his credentials, not to mention the fact that Jesus is a holy figure in Islam)....more