September 19, 2013 |
So what about that National Book Awards fiction longlist? It's a good one, and the last of the four longlists to be released by the National Book Foundation this week. The list includes one of my favorite novels of 2013, “The Flamethrowers” by Los Angeles' own Rachel Kushner , and Tom Drury's fifth novel, “Pacific,” which deals in part with a 14-year-old's experiences in Southern California. Also cited are George Saunders ' elegant and heartbreaking short-story collection, “Tenth of December,” which came out at the beginning of the year, as well as two of the most anticipated novels of the fall: “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri and Thomas Pynchon's “Bleeding Edge.” Pynchon, of course, is a former National Book Award winner; he received the 1974 prize for his landmark novel “Gravity's Rainbow.” So too is Alice McDermott , who won a 1988 National Book Award for “Charming Billy.” Her new novel, “Someone,” also made the longlist this year.
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!
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.
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.
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.
June 6, 2013 |
When it comes to Stephen King, I'm partial to the smaller efforts: novellas, short novels, experiments, the quieter, more interior stuff. It's not that I don't like his big books - especially "The Shining," which remains the scariest thing I've ever read, and the 1996 novel "Desperation," an overarching consideration of sin and sacrifice and redemption, set in a Nevada mining town. Still, what makes King resonate for me is the detail work, the way he can get inside the most mundane situation and animate it, revealing in the process something of how we live.
February 21, 2013 |
Janice Steinberg's latest creation isn't technically her creation at all. Rather, the protagonist in her new novel, "The Tin Horse" (Random House: 352 pp., $26 hardcover), is the fully formed version of a marginal character plucked from Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep," a figure Steinberg had been preoccupied with for a while. An unnamed young woman who appears for a few brief pages in Chapter 5 of Chandler's famous noir - she's in a bookstore, reading a law book, when the detective Philip Marlowe wanders in and asks her about one of the other stores on the street.
August 19, 2012 |
Hostage A Novel Elie Wiesel, translated from the French by Catherine Temerson Alfred A. Knopf: 214 pp., $25.95 It's hard to read Elie Wiesel's new novel, "Hostage," without thinking about his classic Holocaust recollection, "Night. " That's partly because both deal with captivity, and even more with questions of faith and identity and our place in the universe, at a moment when such elements appear to have been rendered moot. But even more, "Hostage," like "Night," begs the question of how we read it - of the type of document it is. In the case of the earlier book, that tension (and it is very much a tension)
June 20, 2013 |
Tao Lin's new novel, "Taipei," is more obviously autobiographical than previous efforts - about a young, male, Asian American New York urbanite and social-media compulsive paralyzed by a robot-ennui style of depression. Lin has energetically cultivated a reputation as a shameless self-promoter and boutique literary writer whom hipsters and Internet art-lit culturists call "controversial" and love to hate; comparisons to Bret Easton Ellis abound, and rightly, since Lin writes in part about a privileged, dissipated youth drug subculture and aims for an amoral, affectless voice designed to shock.