All posts by LARB Blog

“Take it Seriously”: An Interview with Ecologist and Author Daniel Botkin

By Sam Ribakoff

Daniel Botkin is a world-renowned ecologist and professor emeritus at UC Santa Barbara’s school of Environmental Studies, who has worked on many conservation efforts around the world, including at California’s Mono Lake and Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park. He’s also a published author with a knack for poetic titles; The Moon in the Nautilus Shell, Discordant Harmonies, and Beyond the Stoney Mountains all invoke the beauty and complexity of nature and the environment. Continue reading

Nowruz at UCLA

By Orly Minazad

Tehrangeles is aflutter with the advent of the Persian New Year — Nowruz — on March 21st. Eager celebrants might have watched truckloads of potted Hyacinths dressed in colorful wrapping being unloaded for Jordan Market on Westwood Boulevard. Up and down the street store displays are decked out with the Iranian flag, painted eggs and figurines of our very own Santa Clause, Haji Firuz. It’s the most wonderful time of the year in LA’s Persian Square, and everyone’s invited to the party. Continue reading

Eating Korea: an Anthony Bourdain-Approved Search for the Culinary Soul of an Ever-Changing Country

By Colin Marshall

Koreans I meet for the first time tend to draw all their questions from the same well. What they ask starts out basic — why I came to Korea, what kind of work I do, how did I become interested in Korea in the first place — and then gets more culturally revealing. Having asked how long I’ve lived here, for instance, they often follow up with, “Until when will you live here?”, I question I wouldn’t even imagine asking a recent arrival in America. When the subject turns to matters of the table, as in this food-centric society it always does, they almost invariably ask not “Do you like Korean food?” but “Can you eat Korean food?” — a matter not of taste, they imply, but ability. Continue reading

Standing with Standing Rock: Holy Holidays

By Brendan Clarke

The following article is the second in a five-part series about the movement at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The mobilization, of people and resources, which was spurred on by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, began an unprecedented convergence of hundreds of Indigenous Tribes, and thousands upon thousands of people. The series, which was originally written as a single piece, offers the reflections of Brendan Clarke, who traveled to Standing Rock from November 19th through December 9th to join in the protection of water, sacred sites, and Indigenous sovereignty. As part of this journey, which was supported by and taken on behalf of many members of his community, Brendan served in many different roles at the camps, ranging from direct action to cleaning dishes and constructing insulated floors. He, along with the small group he traveled with, also created a long-term response fund, which they are currently stewarding. These stories are part of his give-away, his lessons learned, and his gratitude, for his time on the ground. Continue reading

Youth, Creativity, and Other Women: An Interview with Nicola Maye Goldberg

By Sophie Browner

Nicola Maye Goldberg’s new book, Other Women, is a delicate, feminine bildungsroman that follows a young woman from New York City to Berlin and back again. The protagonist — nameless, sensitive, brilliant — wanders in a ghostly fashion through the city streets, reflecting on her life and the decisions she has made. Other Women is a brilliant little novel (little in physicality and length at 164 pages), brimming with obsession, vulnerability, and heartbreak. It is at once dark and bright — morbid without being turgid, specific without being pretentious. Continue reading

Reflections on Silk Roads: An Interview with Peter Frankopan

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Oxford historian Peter Frankopan’s much-praised book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, first published in the UK in 2015 and just out in paperback in the United States, is already available in various languages other than English and is getting reviewed and talked about in the press on several continents.  One tangible indication of its reach is that, when I flew home from the Shanghai International Literary Festival Sunday, one of the last things I saw in China was a Chinese language edition of it displayed in a Pudong airport shop, while one of the first things I saw once back in America, as the photograph accompanying this interview shows, was the English language edition prominently featured on the shelves of an SFO bookstore.  Silk Roads is a sprawling, engagingly written, comprehensive effort to pull the loci of world history east to the networks of political, economic and cultural exchange that have connected Europe with Asia for centuries. For Frankopan, these early trading routes form the basis for understanding the geopolitics of our time.  I caught up with him via email to quiz him on various things relating to the present as well as the past. Continue reading

The Incendiary Impact of Elif Batuman’s The Idiot

By Louise McCune

A factory sorts its oil drums. Behind door number one is a room of full barrels, and behind door two sits a stash of empty ones. Workers at the factory are wary around the full ones, taking precaution to avoid combustion, when in fact it is the other set that deserve their heightened vigilance. Those empty drums are in fact not empty at all. Once their liquid is used up, they become full of flammable vapors and are therefore even more volatile than their unused counterparts. Their menace is obscured by their moniker — “empty” — with disastrous consequence; deeming the empty drums empty of threat, workers are disarmed in their presence. They take breaks. They light cigarettes. They start a fire. Continue reading

Balm and the Captured Castle: Dodie Smith, Marilynne Robinson, and the Literature of Faith

By Ellie Wymard

Before a friend urged me to read I Capture the Castle, J.K.Rowling had called its protagonist “one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met,” Erica Jong characterized it as “a delicious, compulsively readable novel,” Chloe Schama had said it was a “too narrowly celebrated masterpiece” in her column for the New Republic, Julian Barnes deemed it the “comfort book” for a character in his Man Booker Prize winner The Secret of an Ending, and it had won a place on the BBC’S List of 100 Great Books. Continue reading