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.
December 15, 2011 |
Life is just a long string of memories. Even our present is being pushed each second into the past. Peter Orner uses that fact to engaging effect in his new novel, "Love and Shame and Love. " The book tells the story of a young man named Alexander Popper and his family strictly through anamnesis' ethereal prism. Each chapter is a solitary memory, dusted off and glowing with latent emotional residue. It's a nontraditional storytelling device that results in a book of brief chapters, sometimes no more than a paragraph, each of which could easily stand on its own. The story jumps back and forth - like memory itself - between early family history and fairly recent recollections.
September 19, 2013 |
When Stephen King published his third novel, "The Shining," in 1977, he was a writer with a lot on his mind. Initially, he told The Times in 1998, he conceived of the book as "a Shakespearean tragedy, a kind of inside-out 'King Lear,' where Lear is this young guy who has a son instead of daughters. " He even went so far as to divide the first draft into acts and scenes. Make of this what you will, but it suggests that King has always had more at stake than merely to frighten us, that he wants to get at the big themes: love, loss, loyalty, what happens between parents and their kids.
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.
November 21, 2013 |
Jerry Stahl believes it's impossible to shock an audience anymore, but in his new novel, "Happy Mutant Baby Pills" (Harper Perennial, $14.99 pp.), he comes close. His main character, Lloyd, falls in love with a murderous woman named Nora who wants to take down Monsanto and Dow Chemical. After an absurd, paranoid and somehow comic murder spree, they decide to create a mutant baby in protest of capitalism by ingesting as many prescriptions, GMOs and pesticide-laden products as possible - while shooting endless amounts of heroin.
March 15, 2011 |
Jodi Picoult's novels do not gather dust on the bedside table. They are gobbled up quickly and the readers want more. "Sing You Home" is Picoult's 18th novel; the last six have each sold more than 5 million copies around the world. Her new novel, which takes on issues of fertility, same-sex marriage, the legal ownership of embryos, love, gender, insurance, alcoholism, faith, adultery and sibling rivalry, is already flying off the shelves. Picoult is known for her ability to shed light on the issues affecting domestic life in America: divorce, overprotective parenting, childhood depression, families struggling with medical crises ?
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 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.