Displaying articles for: September 2011

Hector Tobar on L.A. Literature

In search of the "Los Angeles novel": New York City is teeming with writers -- journalist, novelists, poets, essayists -- all hoping to catch their big break. So it's no surprise that many of our greatest American novels are set in Gotham. Yet there's something refreshing about a fantastic Los Angeles novel as well. The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar, which will be featured as a B&N Discover Great New Writers pick this holiday season, is the newest addition to that list. In honor of the publication of his captivating new L.A. novel, we asked Hector to provide his own list of favorite L.A. works. 

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Hark! A Vagrant

Having thoroughly enjoyed Kate Beaton's first collection of wonderfully nonsensical and risible, yet somehow seductively educational comics (her foresworn history degree does not go unemployed in her new artistic career), I went about investigating her website, Hark! A Vagrant, where many of the strips first appeared and where many new ones continue to manifest, and yet I somehow remained clueless as to the derivation and meaning of the title she chose to bestow on her book and site.

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Secret Language

If you are the kind of amateur word-lover who is still in mourning over the passing of William Safire, or who readily employs "anagram" as a verb ("[In the Middle Ages] some people believed that a person's character or fate could be discovered by anagramming his or her name."), or who knows that "sotadics" is a synonym for palindromes, then you will immediately fall acronym over hexagram in love with Barry Blake's survey of all the tricky and elusive stunts that words can pull, Secret Language, originally published in 2010 and now appearing in a handy trade paperback edition.

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Hemingway's Boat

I can easily picture, with my own share of his glee, the enormous smile that must have brightened the face of Paul Hendrickson when he first crystallized his brilliant conceit for organizing his new account of the last thirty years of Ernest Hemingway's life: to use Hemingway's beloved and intimately essential cabin cruiser Pilar as the polestar of the narrative. No wan symbol or factitious theory to serve as blinkered Virgil, but instead a tactile, intensely documented, sensual, action-crammed vessel (the boat hosted some five hundred visitors, famous and otherwise, in its lifetime) that would carry a rich cargo of story.

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Habibi

This month, Craig Thompson returns with Habibi, as different from his award-winning graphic novel Blankets as could be, but nonetheless evocative of the same intelligence, compassion, creative range, and skills. The tale takes place in the desert kingdom of Wanatolia, and it's a curious realm indeed. On the one hand, camel caravans continue to cross the desert in immemorial fashion, slaves are bought and sold, and a sultan straight out of the 1,001 Nights maintains a lush harem, complete with eunuchs and viziers. On the other hand, oil pipelines thread the sands, people wear mirrorshades, and a giant hydroelectric dam and a sprawling modern metropolis form important venues.

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April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.