Category Archives: Literature

Text is Text: An Interview with Mauro Javier Cardenas

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein

Mauro Javier Cardenas’ formally experimental debut novel Revolutionaries Try Again, out September 6th from Coffee House House Press, probes the question of whether or not a novel should even be concerned with narrative. It suggests that, instead, it is the depiction of our internal minds that matters. An Ecuadorian expat who lives in San Francisco returns to Ecuador to attempt a run at the presidency with his friends from high school. But what follows is not a tale of political hijinx, it is an exploration into the interiors of the characters as they navigate their dark, cold worlds. Continue reading

Rock and Literature: On Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

By Kevin Dettmar

I’ve just returned from a wonderful small conference at the National Humanities Center called “Novel Sounds.” At its most specific, conversation focused on the role played by rock ‘n’ roll in contemporary American fiction; more broadly, presentations engaged with the fruitful — if sometimes stealthy, but in any event mutual — give-and-take between writing and contemporary popular music. Continue reading

Lost Literature: An Excerpt from The Missing Books

By Scott Esposito

On October 10th, Scott Esposito released The Missing Books, a curated list of nearly 100 books that don’t exist. Esposito writes, for each entry, a short description of the book’s history — was it lost, abandoned, buried within another text? The list is divided into four categories: books that do not yet exist, books that come from other books, books that have been lost, and books that have been rediscovered. It is a living document which will be updated as needed. The following are excerpts from The Missing Books, the entirety of which is only available on Esposito’s website. Continue reading

More Daring than Didion: An Interview with Emily Witt

By Stef Hayes

What would Didion do? Emily Witt wonders in her 2015 essay “Are You ‘Internet Sexual?’” while deciding whether or not to broadcast herself to a sea of strangers on the sex cam site Chaturbate. Witt wants to understand what it is to be a woman online, but she’s hesitant, afraid her mostly middle-aged male editors might not take her seriously when they find out — and anyway, she’s dating someone. “Joan Didion would never have sex cammed,” Witt concludes, “she went to San Francisco in 1968 and didn’t even do acid.”

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Nobel Notes: Dylan as Literature

By Joshua Clover

Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize on Thursday, made his last great recording on my mother’s birthday in 1975. Also, Joni Mitchell is better. He’s a world-historical artist anyway. You might disagree; every Nobel Prize winner is broadly disliked, I hope. Taste is, as always, the least interesting aspect of the contentious debates over who is deserving of this annual travesty. More interesting is the struggle — the campaigning, the outrage, the political demands — over this doling out of cultural recognition by gross global prestige machines. But this year the heat seems to reside in the definition of literature, itself a site of ceaseless cultural combat. Continue reading

We Have the Receipts: An Interview with Phoebe Robinson

By Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn

Amid the swell of white noise from the chattering, packed, standing-room only crowd of diverse hipsters at Skylight Books awaiting Phoebe Robinson, a conversation between two women sitting in the row behind me stands out — though it took no effort to eavesdrop. “Phoebe’s saving my life right now,” one stridently said. “Yeah, she tells it like it is,” the other replied, “like how you’d talk to your best friend.” Continue reading

Char Miller Unearths the Past in Not So Golden State

By Sean McCoy

He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba. He who despairs of spring with downcast eye steps on it, unknowing. He who searches for spring with his knees in the mud finds it, in abundance.
Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac

On October 6th, at Hennessey + Ingalls bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles, a group of curious Angelenos arranged plastic folding chairs into a circle and sat beneath an array of art and architecture books. We had come to hear Char Miller, an environmental historian and professor at Pomona College, discuss his new book, Not So Golden State: Sustainability vs. The California Dream. Wiry and bespectacled, with white hair crowning his tanned face, Miller spoke synoptically and read excerpts before ceding the floor to his audience for questions. Not So Golden State, Miller explained, surveys the history of environmental issues plaguing California and the West, with specific attention given to the Los Angeles area. Told through a series of essays — what Miller prefers to call “stories” — the book delves into the tensions that arise when humans choose to “make these disparate landscapes our home.”

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A Book of the Bible Even an Atheist Can Love: Secular Inspiration in Ecclesiastes

By Jeffrey Tayler

“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” announces Ecclesiastes, a book of the Old Testament that I, an atheist with an ardent distaste for religion, find consoling, calming, and wise. As the years pass and cares mount, as pleasures fade with repetition, and as the senescence and deaths of family members bear down relentlessly, I find myself turning to Ecclesiastes for comfort, inspiration, and, despite its melancholy tidings, cheer. Continue reading

A Convergence of Rad Women at Skylight Books

By Tori Gesualdo

This moment in human history has the word gender turning over and over in its mouth, the sandstone of the modern tongue stripping away the callouses on the word “woman.” On October 3rd at Skylight Books, author Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl heralded the word “woman” in the presentation of their new book Rad Women Worldwide. The book is a celebration of amazing women throughout human history, like activist Malala Yousafzai, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and British punk rocker Poly Styrene. It is sequel to the duo’s first work, Rad Women of America, and a very considerate and artful archive of global femininity. The widened scope of subject matter was approached with great attention to diversity; of skill, of global recognition, of race, and of creed. By acknowledging each rad woman’s unique tribulations on her way to triumph, they have created not only an artifact of female excellence, but of female strength and tenacity in the face of patriarchy, racial oppression, and war. Continue reading

The Elenic Question

By Merve Emre and Len Gutkin

The revelation of Elena Ferrante’s real identity — she is, allegedly, the Italian translator Anita Raja — by the Italian investigative reporter Claudio Gatti has provoked outrage and dismay from journalists and literary critics. Many feel that Gatti’s violation of Raja’s pseudonymity is an unethical attack on her privacy. We agree. Whatever Raja’s reasons for desiring to remain pseudonymous, her wishes should have been respected, at least during her lifetime. The “exposure” of Raja as Ferrante did not serve the sort of compelling public interests that might have justified the invasion of her privacy. Continue reading