CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
December 10, 2010 |
Standing outside a bookstore on 8th Street a decade ago, novelist Susan Straight looked across the street and saw a vision of Los Angeles loneliness. Men clustered around a black door, surrounded by a wall of black tile. They filled the dark, narrow space inside, reeking of cheap liquor and hurt. "It was just the saddest place I'd ever seen," Straight told me as we stood outside the Golden Gopher bar this week. "There was this lingering melancholy all around this block. You could just smell the desperation of all these men. " These days the Golden Gopher is a hip hangout whose patrons include guys in suits.
October 2, 2011 |
It's early on a brisk morning in September, and Russell Banks is standing in front of the Marriott Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, smoking his first cigarette of the day. In a few hours, he'll be onstage at the Brooklyn Book Festival, across Adams Street in Borough Hall Plaza, but at the moment he's a little tired - the result of a late night with his friend, novelist Paul Auster, a longtime Brooklynite. Still, at 71, Banks looks fit, hair and beard white and close-cropped, eyes sharp behind a pair of frameless glasses that sit like windows on his face.
March 22, 2013 |
On a piano keyboard, which mimics the human vocal range, the middle C is the C closest to the center. That's Joseph Skizzen - the protagonist of William H. Gass' long-awaited follow-up to his 1995 masterpiece "The Tunnel" - a middle-of-the-road yet slightly off-center academic who wants nothing but "the chance of an unnoticed life. " But it just might be a stand-in for the author. If Gass' body of work were a keyboard, you'd have his debut novel, "Omensetter's Luck" on one end and of "The Tunnel" at the other.
October 19, 2012 |
Back to Blood A Novel Tom Wolfe Little, Brown: 704 pp., $30 About a quarter of the way through Tom Wolfe's new novel, "Back to Blood," pornography addiction specialist Dr. Norman Lewis waits with his nurse (and mistress) Magdelena Otero to be interviewed by a "60 Minutes" crew. Norman is delirious at the prospect of his star turn - so much so that he becomes a bit, er, overstimulated. "' Now - while they're at the door!' " he grunts at Magdalena, who responds, " 'No, Norman!
April 4, 2014 |
Meyer Lansky is one of the gravitational centers of Zachary Lazar's new novel, "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" (Little, Brown and Company: 256 pp., $25). Not so much the dapper, "Boardwalk Empire"-era gangster as Lansky in 1972 in Israel, seeking to retire there under the country's Law of Return. It's hardly the most celebrated era in Lansky's life, but Lazar was going for something other than the obvious. "The initial idea of this book was to put Meyer Lansky in the same room as King David from the Bible," Lazar said via Skype from his home office in New Orleans.
January 15, 2013 |
With "The Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown's news Tuesday morning that he would be releasing a new Robert Langdon adventure in May, we thought it wise to check in with the movie prospects for Brown's last Langdon tale, "The Lost Symbol," which resided on the New York Times hard-cover fiction bestseller list for 29 weeks and has 30 million copies in print worldwide. Sony's Columbia Pictures, which released the previous two films, "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," owns the option to all of Brown's future projects involving Langdon, including "The Lost Symbol" and the upcoming "Inferno.
September 5, 2013 |
I don't read J.M. Coetzee for pleasure. To be fair, I'm not sure anyone does. The 2003 Nobel laureate writes from his head more than his heart, framing novels that are philosophical and austere, books that break down the world in highly rational ways. Over the course of his career, he's been compared to Beckett and Kafka, although despite the occasional nod in their direction - the title character of his 1983 novel "The Life and Times of Michael K. " functions to some extent as an homage to "The Trial's" Josef K. - he lacks their appreciation of humor, of life as essentially absurd.
May 31, 2013 |
Friends are dress shopping in the novel "Americanah"; when they get to the register, the cashier asks which of two saleswomen helped them, but they're not sure. She lists numerous physical characteristics to identify the salesperson before giving up. "Why didn't she just ask 'Was it the black girl or the white girl?'" the main character, Ifemelu, exclaims after they leave. "Because this is America," her friend tells her. "You're supposed to pretend that you don't notice certain things.
September 19, 2013 |
"Who Asked You?" is Terry McMillan's eighth book, and it is a corker: a long, smooth, Indian-summer cocktail. For all the racy, scandalous pleasures in books such as "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," McMillan is a serious writer, the kind of novelist of whom the late John Gardner strongly approved ("true art is moral"). Her new book is rich in narrative tension, nuanced humor and moral heft absent from many a work of modern "literary fiction. " "The problem with a lot of us is that we don't have a moral compass," McMillan says.
October 28, 2010 |
The clash between science and faith is a subject that bestselling author Sena Jeter Naslund returns to in her new novel "Adam & Eve," but, unlike her previous books "Ahab's Wife" and "Abundance," her latest demands a suspension of disbelief that is difficult to provide. In the year 2017, a renowned astrophysicist named Thom Bergmann is murdered shortly after having made a breakthrough discovery: irrefutable proof of extraterrestrial life. He tells no one but his wife, Lucy, entrusting her with the evidence on a computer flash drive in case something should happen to him. He's aware that religious fundamentalists consider his research into "life beyond the stars" blasphemous and threatening, and would do anything to stop him. His murder is made to look like a freak accident.