Hector Tobar on L.A. Literature


While two of Tobar's picks (If He Hollers Let Him Go & The Crying of Lot 49) aren't yet available for NOOK, maybe by the time you've worked your way through the others they will be!



Héctor Tobar's Favorite L.A. Novels




The short novel book, written in 1939, is a truly wonderful portrait of the central Los Angeles of his day, and of a neighborhood which, but a few decades later, was largely wiped off the map: Bunker Hill. You can read Ask the Dust like a literary archaeologist, trying to see bits and pieces of a lost L.A. But the book is much more than that. It’s a tender portrait of the wounded souls gathering, during the Great Depression, in a city that was a new, sunny and yet incredibly lonely place. Fante’s L.A. is filled with “broken, uprooted people from the East.” They find little happiness here, and even the ground beneath them isn’t solid. “Los Angeles was doomed,” Fante writes, pages after describing an earthquake. “It was a city with a curse upon it.”





Himes later became famous for a series of Harlem novels. But this 1945 book is set in South-Central Los Angeles and the L.A. shipyards during World War II. It’s dripping with anger, raw and sexually charged. As in Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” (a superior book, to be honest) there’s a moment where the African-American protagonist gets himself in a situation with a white woman that looks perilously close to rape without ever being consummated: it’s a metaphor, of course, for the anger and apparent impotence of the non-white in the L.A. of the 1940s. They are people who can’t escape their second-class status despite living in a city and time where just about anyone, black or white, can make a lot of money.





July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.