November 26, 2010 |
The 736-page "Autobiography of Mark Twain," published a full 100 years after its author's death, was a surprise bestseller when it came out earlier this month. That's terrific news for the University of California Press, the book's publisher, which says "Autobiography of Mark Twain" is the biggest seller it's ever had. Original plans called for a printing of 7,500, which was increased to 50,000 by the time the book actually went to press. It's since gone back again and again, bringing the total number of printed copies to 275,000.
July 27, 2008 |
THERE was a time when the zeitgeist used to get bashed about pretty thoroughly by classical music. New operas, ballets and symphonies would actually alter the cultural climate, chasing away old modes of thought and introducing new realities -- as in 1913, when Igor Stravinsky dropped his "Rite of Spring" on an ill-prepared Parisian public, or in 1952, when David Tudor sat down and closed his keyboard lid for the first live performance of John Cage's "4' 33"."
November 18, 2007 |
It's been a long time since Jesse M. "Big Daddy" Unruh was a household name in California politics. Unruh was, as the cliche goes, "the powerful speaker" of the state Assembly from 1961 to 1969, candidate for governor in 1970 -- he lost to then-Gov. Ronald Reagan by 500,000 votes -- and state treasurer from 1975 until his death in 1987. So why would anyone want to write Unruh's biography now?
September 23, 2007 |
Margaret Leslie Davis' ongoing examination of Los Angeles through the lives of its civic and cultural leaders is a grand project, deserving of generous praise. More than any writer of our time, she is methodically supplying this city with an understanding of itself. Davis' devotion to the task is evident in her choice of subjects -- previous biographies were on William Mulholland and Edward Doheny, of water and oil fame and infamy -- and in the rigorous research that is her signature.
September 16, 2007 |
Ladies and gentlemen! Behold the Human Fly (ludzka mucha in Polish) as he scales the cornerstones of Layzer Mandelbaum's house, then performs three handstands! Take pity on lovely Malkele Drek, who acquired her unfortunate name after falling into a military latrine! Learn how to inflate a goose bladder, stuff a chicken neck and whip up a tasty sauce out of herring sperm! All these wonders (and more!
May 20, 2007 |
ONE of the wry passages in "Weimar on the Pacific" by Ehrhard Bahr is an entry in the journal that Thomas Mann kept while living in Los Angeles in the 1940s and early 1950s. The great man of German letters, a Nobel laureate who served as the public conscience of German civilization in the face of Nazi barbarism, was somehow moved to preserve the following observation: "Nach Westwood zum Haarschneiden" ("Gone to Westwood for a haircut").