God Is in the Gutter: Ben Ehrenreich’s ‘Ether’

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Ben Ehrenreich’s new novel, Ether (City Lights; 164 pages), follows an insomniac author living in a crumbling dystopia. He’s writing a novel about The Stranger, a man in a crusty white suit, an earthly manifestation of God. The premise of the novel-in-progress within Ether is that The Stranger has fallen to Earth and endeavors to return to heaven, intending to rectify some mistake for which his similarly fallen angels will not forgive him. Ehrenreich’s “broken hero” is consummately obstructed from his return by both misfortune and—here is the meat of it—kindnesses. By the end of the book, The Stranger has […]

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Reviving the Corpse of the L.A. Lit Scene: Q&A with Slake’s Joe Donnelly

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Slake, a new, Los Angeles-focused literary journal, put on one hell of a release party for its newest issue on a recent Friday night in Atwater. There were couture food trucks serving gourmet hot dogs and fried chicken. Hot girls serving flatbread strutted around in cute ‘70s cocktail dresses. The Guggenheim guy (Hank, or something) I heard read at Book Party, a West L.A. reading series that no longer exists, was holding court within a circle of smiling blondes. There was an open bar. It was remarkably lively, in a way I haven’t witnessed since the Rumpus Monthly, a packed […]

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An Emphatic Vision That Sees Beyond the Stars: Louis B. Jones’ ‘Radiance’

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“This was a city of the world, a profound city, an endless city,” reflects Mark Perdue, the narrator and protagonist of Louis B. Jones’ latest novel, Radiance (Counterpoint; 240 pages), as he contemplates the unfamiliar surroundings of Los Angeles. The departure from Jones’ home turf of Terra Linda and Berkeley — ground zero for his previous novel, Particles and Luck, also featuring Perdue, and his alarmingly excellent first novel, Ordinary Money — is salutary, and disturbing, for the author and his invented worlds. In the new book, Perdue, a physics prof at UC Berkeley with a fading career that may be […]

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Lust for Life

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Susan Berman is a writer in Los Angeles, where she also works as a Spanish interpreter. Her story “Lust for Life,” which appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue, marks her first fiction in print.

The tale of a toxic love affair, Berman’s story is set in ’70s New York City, amid aspiring artists and youthful passion. How self-destruction can be confused for “passion” is one of the story’s concerns. The other is an appreciation for hope and beauty amid the most unpromising of scenarios. The following is an excerpt from “Lust for Life.”

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Day and Night

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Twenty-five years or so ago, when I first started coming to Los Angeles on a regular basis, I used to stay with a friend who had a satellite’s eye view poster of the city in his breakfast room. It was then — and remains, I think — a vivid metaphor. Not for the sprawl of Southern California, although you can certainly see it there, but rather for the odd tension of the built environment, which can only push the natural landscape so far. If sprawl is an expression of our attempts to control our surroundings, the satellite photo reveals just […]

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