Tag Archives: Los Angeles

L.A. Story: ‘Cake Time’ by Siel Ju

In 1985, Lorrie Moore announced her arrival on the literary scene with “How to be the Other Woman,” the provocative opening salvo that began her first story collection, Self-Help; she has since gone on to become one of the most revered voices in literary fiction. For writer Siel Ju (who appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 81) to start her novel-in-stories Cake Time (192 pages; Red Hen Press) with the similarly titled, and similarly told-in-second-person story “How Not to Have an Abortion” is a bold move, to say the least. Yet Siel Ju’s voice rings clear as her own, thanks in part …Continue reading

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Our World Without Any Memory of Itself: ‘NK3’ by Michael Tolkin

Michael Tolkin’s 1988 novel, The Player, remains a note-perfect send-up of late Eighties Hollywood excess, a paranoid neo-noir told from the point-of-view of the murderer himself—a creatively and morally bankrupt Hollywood executive. Now the acclaimed author, screenwriter, and director returns with NK3 (300 pages; Grove), his first novel in more than a decade. Tolkin has long specialized in satire so shrewd and well-observed that it barely registers as satire; NK3, in which a memory-erasing biological weapon creates a power vacuum for the working classes to seize control from the rich and elite, couldn’t have arrived at a more apropos time. …Continue reading

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An Era, and Its People, Shaped by a Plague: ‘Christodora’ by Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy’s latest novel, Christodora (432 pages; Grove Press), arrives in the middle of a cultural yearning for the seedier, more affordable, which is to say “idealized” Manhattan of yesteryear. Novels like Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire and television shows like Netflix’s The Get Down have embraced nostalgia for the cultural ferment of New York City in the ’70s and ’80s, its sense of an expansive and generative squalor. Superficially, Christodora bears this same stamp. Titled after a run-down East Village apartment complex two of Murphy’s protagonists buy for dirt cheap, the novel lovingly renders New York at its …Continue reading

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A Sunset You Don’t Want to Miss: ‘Slow Days, Fast Company’ by Eve Babitz

“I am quick to categorize and find it saves mountains of time,” writes Eve Babitz in her superb autobiographical novel Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, The Flesh, And L.A. (184 pages; NYRB). Matthew Spector is right when he writes in the introduction to the New York Review Books Classics’ reprint that what sets Babitz’s 1977 novel apart is “the strength and radical compression of its thought.” Although Babitz paints with a broad brush, the resulting images ring approximately true. (And what is there but approximate truth?) Many of her generalizations concern women and men. From the tragedy of Janis …Continue reading

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Thwarted Pilgrimage: ‘White Sands’ by Geoff Dyer

There are a few different types of ignorance at work in Geoff Dyer’s new book, White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World, a collection of essays that combine travel writing and art criticism. One kind is artificial ignorance as an interpretative tool. Often, when he is ignoring information, sloughing off context on which another critic might lean all his weight, Dyer (or the genre-bending author’s narrator whom I will call Dyer) is at his sharpest. In “Space in Time,” the author travels to Quemado, New Mexico, to see Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, but he holds off telling us …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: David L. Ulin & Gary Kamiya

David L. Ulin (whose work has appeared in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 100 and 104) is the author or editor of eight previous books, including The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time and the Library of America’s Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, he is the former book critic of the Los Angeles Times. ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon, along with Gary Kamiya—executive editor of San Francisco Magazine and author of Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco—discussed Ulin’s latest book, Sidewalking: Coming …Continue reading

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Pushing Against the Constraints of Circumstance: Q&A with Kate Milliken

Kate Milliken is a graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Tin House summer writing workshops. She has recently published her first collection of short fiction, If I’d Known You Were Coming (University of Iowa Press, 134 pages), for which she was awarded the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Stories from this collection have appeared in a variety of publications, including Fiction, New Orleans Review, and Santa Monica Review. Her story, “A Matter of Time,” was published in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2013 issue. Told in the intimate details of …Continue reading

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Easy Rawlins Searches the Sunset Strip: Walter Mosley’s ‘Little Green’

Little Green (Doubleday, 304 Pages), the new crime thriller from Walter Mosley, is the eleventh installment in the Easy Rawlins series, which kicked off with 1990’s Devil in a Blue Dress. Easy is now older and edgier, navigating the reader through a layered mystery set against a racially tense Los Angeles in 1967. The story opens with Easy recovering from a near-fatal car accident. Enlivened with a voodoo concoction called Gator’s Blood, the private eye gets right back to work, helping his stalwart friend Mouse find Evander “Little Green” Noon, a young man who went missing after dropping acid on …Continue reading

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From a Kurdish Mountain Town, to Streets of L.A.: Laleh Khadivi’s ‘The Walking’

Laleh Khadivi’s The Walking (Bloomsbury; 258 pages), the second novel in her projected trilogy about Iran, follows two Kurdish brothers who escape Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in search of a paradise that doesn’t exist. Khadivi’s mellifluous prose traces a gripping journey, one ranging from the fleeing of a mountain town to traveling across a desert, the making of an overseas voyage on a freight ship, and, finally, arriving on the unforgiving streets of Los Angeles. This is a story about illusions. The two brothers worship different ones that goad them onward — Ali betrays his family to defend his hopelessly ravaged …Continue reading

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Discovering L.A., and the Mother She Never Knew: Anna Stothard’s ‘The Pink Hotel’

In her second novel, The Pink Hotel (Picador Original, 280 pages), just published in the United States, Anna Stothard tells the tale of a 17-year-old girl’s attempts find out more about the life and death of her party-girl mother, Lily, while on an extended trip to Los Angeles. The book opens on the nameless narrator at the wild, drug-filled party that is meant to be a memorial for Lily, exploring her mother’s room in the Venice Beach hotel she owned. Having been abandoned at the age of three, the narrator barely remembers her mother and the other people at the …Continue reading

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A Frank Investigation of Her Family: Q&A with Paula Priamos

In her recent memoir, The Shyster’s Daughter (Etruscan Press; 250 pages), which was excerpted in ZYZZYVA 91, Paula Priamos investigates the death of her lawyer father and paints an unapologetic portrait of her family, with characters both perverse and loving. Priamos peers into the motivations of her family members with a rare and enticing frankness that distinguishes her work from that of other memoirists. Beyond the title, Priamos hints at the type of story she’s about to tell in the first page with a description of her father, who’s phoning her. She can easily imagine him being “somewhere far sleazier” …Continue reading

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Pulling Back the Layers: Adrian Wong’s ‘Orange Peel, Harbor Seal, Hyperreal’

Adrian Wong’s three sculptural works comprising Orange Peel, Harbor Seal, Hyperreal, now on display at the Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco, would likely not exist if it weren’t for a bit of stubbornness on Wong’s part: his refusal to own a smart phone. The accomplished young artist and academic, who splits his time between Hong Kong and Los Angeles, excels at a deliberate kind of urban wandering—one that involves scrupulous attention to a city’s spatial organization, architectural forms, and idiosyncratic stylistic details. It also means frequently getting lost. Having the option to mediate his experience through the two-dimensional layer …Continue reading

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