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L.A. Lit 2000

Work in Progress

April 16, 2000

When Lyle Clemens was born, in Rio Escondido, Texas, in 1981, his mother quickly covered his rosy nakedness just before she fainted, either from the rigors of the birth or from her first impression of the child. Sylvia Love, who gave Lyle his absent father's name, was surprised that the child was even born, thinking he'd died inside her. That's what Clarita, her trusted Mexican friend and self-appointed mid-wife, had told her after having listened (without confessing that she was growing hard of hearing in her right ear) for any stirrings within Sylvia's belly. So when Clarita (who today had taken only two shots of Sylvia's bourbon) pulled the child out, she shoved him back at Sylvia in disappointment that her psychic powers had failed, again. Sylvia Love blinked in double surprise. Not only was the child alive and yelling lustily, but--she would swear she saw this during the fluttering of her eyes--he was "big, brawly, and aroused, just like his damn father." That, and a fleeting memory of her terrible experience as a contestant in the Miss Texas Beauty Pageant earlier that year, caused her to toss a sheet over the child who would grow up to become the Naked Cowboy at the Academy Awards in Hollywood.

John Rechy is the author of the unpublished "The Naked Cowboy." His previous works include, most recently, "The Coming of the Night." He is the 1997 recipient of PEN USA/West's Lifetime Achievement Award.

*

SUE GRAFTON

PROLOGUE

I suppose I should paint the big picture, just so you'll appreciate the trouble I'm in. At the moment, I'm sitting on the floor in the foyer of a house in Horton Ravine. I'm leaning against the far wall, facing the entrance, my H & K P 9 loaded and resting lightly on my knees, muzzle pointed at the door. It's been raining, unusual in Santa Teresa at this time of the year. This November has been one of the wettest in memory, windy and bleak, especially by California standards. I've been waiting since 9:00 and it's probably close to midnight, though I have no way to know. Moments ago, the power was cut so the cavernous house is now enveloped in darkness. The silence is profound; all the hum and the ticking of domestic machinery shut down. . . .

Sue Grafton is working on her next novel, "P Is For . . .", to be published by Marian Wood / Putnam. She is the author of the Kinsey Millhone alphabet series, which began with "A Is For Alibi."

*

RAY BRADBURY

PROLOGUE

Constance.

Constance Rattigan.

Or, as she was widely known, The Rattigan.

Forty years of triumphs and disasters crammed in one brown surf-seal body. Golden tan, five feet two inches tall, here she comes, there she goes, swimming far out at sunset, body-surfing back, they said, at dawn, to be beached at all hours, barking with the sea beasts half a mile out, or idling in her oceanside pool, a martini in each hand, stark naked to the sun, or whiplashing down into her basement projection room to watch herself run, timeless, on the pale ceiling with Erich Von Stroheim, Jack Gilbert, or Rod LaRocque's ghost, then abandoning her silent laughter on the cellar walls, vanishing in the surf again, a quick target that Time and Death could never catch.

Constance.

The Rattigan.

Shouldn't she have her own book?

She should.

Ray Bradbury is the author of "Let's All Kill Constance!," to be published this fall by Avon Books. His previous works include "The Martian Chronicles," "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Illustrated Man."

*

CRISTINA GARCIA

Central Highlands, Vietnam

(1969)

Rabo mono amarra mono

Domingo Chen was on nightwatch. He volunteered for it often, preferring the darkness to the day's uneasy camraderies. Domingo sat behind his mound of hardpacked red clay, his M-16 oiled and loosely slung on his shoulder, his flak jacket coarsely scrawled with BINGO. A sickle moon played hide-and-seek through the jungle canopy. There were no stars. No way to read heaven with any accuracy. He might have loved this sky in another time, from another perspective.

Domingo listened to the rumble of nightmares from the foxholes, men crying out in their sleep, fear pulling wires in their throats. Lately, there'd been drowsy talk about how the snub-nosed monkeys started howling when the weather shifted, how the peasants hunted the monkeys and sold their skulls as war souvenirs. In Cuba, Domingo recalled, the paleros coveted the skulls of Chinese suicides for their curses and spells.

The day had been hell. In the hot, lacquering afternoon, three men were killed by snipers, another blown apart by a land mine, as if no more than a bad idea had been holding him together. The men had been joking about how the jungle air seemed to magnify everything like a heat mirage. You be lookin' at yo' peepaw brothers, and praisin' the Lord!

Cristina Garcia is the author of "Traveling Through the Flesh," to be published by Alfred A. Knopf. Her previous works include "Dreaming in Cuban" and "The Aguero Sisters."

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MICHAEL CONNELLY

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