Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Fortunate Literary Community in L.A.: Wendy C. Ortiz and Rhapsodomancy

In Los Angeles, a person can’t get anywhere in seven minutes. There’s no Muni, BART, quaint Italian streetcar or the tried and true 22 Fillmore. Attending readings can be a chore that involves multiple freeway changes and nail biting, bumper-to-bumper traffic. It’s difficult to lure people out for free drinks, a cheese plate, and a discounted literary journal here, where an iffy parking situation can make or break an event. In L.A., I show up to readings because I value the time spent crafting a story, the twenty-four revisions and the manic rehearsals that go into a reading. I know …Continue reading

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Summoning the Achingly Beautiful Out of Strife: Craig Thompson’s ‘Habibi’

There are some artists and writers that truly utilize the medium of comic books and graphic novels to create a unique narrative experience that only sequential art can deliver. Craig Thompson is one of those individuals. Following the success of his semi-autobiographical Blankets, Thompson has once again given readers a poignant and sincere tale of love and spirituality in Habibi (Pantheon; 672 pages). Set in a world that is both historical and modern, mixing epic deserts and extravagant palaces with modern city landscapes and industrial wastelands, readers follow Dodola and Zam, two children who escape from slavery by fleeing to …Continue reading

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The Wear and Tear of a Boy’s Life: Roy Jacobsen’s ‘Child Wonder’

Roy Jacobsen’s coming-of-age novel, Child Wonder (Graywolf Press; 239 pages), offers a well-crafted metaphor for the cultural transformations of Norway in the 1960s – a time “[b]efore oil,” as Jacobsen writes in the foreword, “before anyone had any money at all.” The book, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, is also a romance of youth, filled with nostalgia and secrets, rage and violence. And, of course, transformations. Suddenly, for Finn, the story’s narrator and hero, things become “brighter,” eyes become “bluer.” Though he is an emotionally rich, thoughtful and observant character, Finn still acts out like …Continue reading

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Both Outside and Inside the Literary World: Q&A with Dagoberto Gilb

Dagoberto Gilb is arguably the most critically acclaimed Mexican American author writing today, with a publication resume few writers of any background can claim: The New Yorker, The Threepenny Review, Harper’s, Texas Monthly, The New York Times, The Nation. The author of six books, he won a PEN/Hemingway Award for his first story collection The Magic of Blood (1993), which was also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner. His first novel, The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna (1995), was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year, and his second novel, The Flowers (2008), was praised by …Continue reading

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Luis Alberto Urrea and the Power of a Captivating Reading

Luis Alberto Urrea is an amazing writer. The beloved, multi-prize winning author of novels, nonfiction, and poetry, Urrea’s most recent book, Queen of America, is (as I wrote in a review that appeared in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle) “at once magical and corporeal, grounding and transporting. … The compelling true story of a young woman caught between worlds, between her childhood in Mexico and her adulthood in the United States, between the spiritual world and the material world.” But here I want to discuss Urrea’s reading, his ability to transfix an audience through the spoken word. The first time I …Continue reading

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