blog avidly middle aged women

Essays That We, As Ladies of Early Middle Age, Would Like to See Written*

Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Avidly

“Witty Meeting Comebacks that Indicate Your Displeasure While Concealing the (Professionally Discrediting) Whirling Dervish of Your Rage”

“Throwing Money at Problems: A Justification”

“Is This Sex Position Degrading or Just Uncomfortable?”

“Age-Concealing Procedures: Talking to Someone While Pretending They Haven’t Had One, or, Injectables: Agreeing to Disagree”

“Strangely Funny Moments in The House of Mirth

“Women Who Take Care of Too Many People and the People Who Take Care of Them, i.e. Other Women”

“How to Get your Eyebrows Done Without Feeling Weird About It”

laura petrie“Rules for Wearing ‘Challenging’ Clothing Items, Ankle Boots Specifically”

“I Don’t Know Why I Asked You if You were OK a Third time, Perhaps Because I am Dissatisfied with Your Answer of [Shrug]?”

“Am I the Only One Not Enjoying Delightful, Airy Chitchat with my Hair Stylist? An Investigation”

“Ten Satisfying Ways of Letting Your Enemy Know That You are Ignoring Her, While Still Ignoring Her.” Continue reading

blog kongfz

Kongfuzi: The Other Chinese Website You Should Know About

By Austin L. Dean

By now you have probably heard of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company that had a gargantuan $21 billion initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in September. You might have seen an interview with Jack Ma, the former English-teacher and CEO of Alibaba, as he made the rounds of the American business media. You might have even read stories about the vast number products for sale of Alibaba’s website: cherries from American farmers, freshly caught oysters from off the coast of New Zealand. Everything, it seems, is available through one of Alibaba’s online marketplaces—one of which, Taobao, was described in detail in Alec Ash’s post for this blog just last week. The company, or at least their public relations materials, claims it is bringing the world to China and China to the world. Continue reading

mrb blog most read

Marginalia’s Most Read Articles of 2014

Below are the Top 10 most read articles of 2014 published by LARB Channel Marginalia

1. The Vanishing Jews of Antiquity — Adele Reinhartz on the question of translating the Greek term ioudaios, June 24
2. The Arabic Bible before Islam — Claire Wilde on Sidney H. Griffith’s The Bible in Arabic, June 10
3. Genius Denied and Reclaimed: A 40-Year Retrospect on Marshall G.S. Hodgson’s The Venture of Islam — Bruce B. Lawrence celebrates Hodgson’s moral vision, November 11
4. To Speak Truly about God — Rowan Williams on Kevin Hector’s Theology without Metaphysics, May 27
5. Traveling to Acquire Knowledge — Daniel Majchrowicz on Houari Touati’s Islam and Travel in the Middle Ages, May 27
6. The Multiple Ideas of India: Narendra Modi and the Meaning of Indian Secularism — Benjamin Siegel on Narendra Modi’s election as the 16th Prime Minister of India and the “idea of India”, May 27
7. The Presbyterians and I — Shaye J.D. Cohen’s op-ed on the PCUSA’s divestment decision, July 22
8. fergu(losta)son: mourning michael brown — J. Kameron Carter performs a commentary in verse on Michael Brown and Ferguson, August 19
9. Psmith’s Art of Cool: War and Zen in P.G. Wodehouse — Ted Scheinman on Psmith as philosophe and his spiritual calm, July 22
10. The Problem with Identity in Late Antiquity — Todd Berzon on Aaron P. Johnson’sReligion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre: The Limits of Hellenism in Late Antiquity, November 11


The Mailman Cometh: A Door-to-Door Taobao Delivery

By Alec Ash

Anyone who lives in China orders a lot from Taobao, the online shopping hub owned by the recently listed company Alibaba. The last dozen items I purchased from it are: foam ear plugs, a wooden moxibustion set, USB speakers shaped like a panda head, a hemp cushion with a Union Jack design, a laptop stand, a wireless keyboard and mouse, a piano stand clip-on light, a fridge magnet that you can snap open bottle caps against, a bottle of Bruichladdich whisky, a portable iPhone battery charger, and a tai chi sword. I have just revealed too much about myself.

It’s an impressive site. First of all, Taobao has everything. Pining for Marmite from mother England? Taobao has it. Think sending live scorpions in the post is a bad idea? Think again. Want a pony instead? Happy birthday. Continue reading

Keep us flying

Letter from Editor-in-Chief Tom Lutz

Dear LARB supporter,

I know you are getting a lot of emails like this, as am I, as many nonprofits rush to meet their goals.

We are very close to securing all the funds for this, our most ambitious matching grant fund drive to date. All we need to do is match what we raised in the last two days of our drive last year – and so if you gave last year and haven’t done so yet this year, we urge you to chip in what you can; if you’ve been thinking about becoming a member, or re-enrolling at a higher level, do it today or tomorrow and we get two bucks for every one of yours.

During our fund drive campaign, you’ve heard from Margaret Atwood about why she supports LARB. You’ve heard from James Ellroy, Reza Aslan, Janet Fitch, Jamie Wolf, Albert Litewka, the LARB staff themselves, and so many more.  Now it’s time for us to hear from you.

Click here to donate. Whether it’s $25, $50, $150, $200, or more, make a statement that you support Los Angeles Review of Books‘s mission to keep critical thinking alive and well in this increasingly atomized digital age.

This is your Review – we wouldn’t be here without your support, and we won’t continue to be here without it. To everyone who has given, thank you so much for bringing us this close. I’m proud of what we accomplished this year, and we hope, with your help, that next year will be even better.

Thank you so much,

Tom Lutz

michelle blog

The LARB End-of-Year Editor Interviews: Michelle Huneven

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going;  we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. Here we present Michelle Huneven, a Senior Fiction Editor. 

Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?

I had been eyeing LARB since its inception, and finally asked if I might step into the drink. I am a Senior Fiction Editor, which means that I assign essays about fiction, reviews of fiction and interviews with fiction writers, which I then edit and, eventually, shepherd into production.When I am not editing and shepherding, I am trying to write fiction. I also teach creative writing at UCLA.  Continue reading


Letter from the Chairman of the Board

After graduate school, I moved from Berkeley to New York to pursue a career as a poet and novelist. I got my first job at McGraw-Hill Book Company, and wrote at night. A few years later I had occasion to travel on business to Los Angeles. Needing to do some research, I obtained a temporary library card and visited a local branch of the public library. After gathering the materials I needed, I went to the checkout desk, where an elderly librarian examined my card.

“Albert Litewka,” she said looking up at me. “Are you the Albert Litewka who many years ago attended Manchester Avenue grammar school?”

“Yes,” I responded. “Why do you ask?”

I had attended Manchester Avenue, deep in South Central (now called South) Los Angeles, after my Holocaust refugee family moved from New York to Los Angeles due to my mother’s poor health.

“My name is Miss Smith,” the woman said. “I was the librarian on the book mobile that came to your school every two weeks. The limit on the number of books a person could check out from the public library system was 14 books. Every two weeks a little boy would climb up into the book mobile and check out 14 books. He took historical novels, biographies, histories, science and sports books, and mysteries. He would stagger off the book mobile behind a stack of books as tall as his head. I would go back to the librarian’s headquarters and tell them about that boy. I used to say, ‘I wonder what that boy does with those books.’ And I always hoped that someday I would find out what happened to that boy.”

Well, I was that boy, and today it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the Los Angeles Review of Books. Along the way, I have been President of Macmillan Publishing Company, among other companies, and enjoyed considerable business success. I didn’t wind up winning the Nobel Prize for literature, which was my first and most deeply felt ambition, but being able to help guide and build LARB has been the next best thing. All of us associated with it have poured ourselves into making LARB what Richard Brody in The New Yorker called, “One of the instant jewels of the Internet,” and playwright Jon Robin Baitz called, “The best literary magazine in the country.”

For LARB to have come so far in less than three years would not have been possible without the pooling of skills and energies from our many contributors, editors, volunteers, contractors, and staff. Nor would it have been possible without the generous support of our readers. As a nonprofit public benefit corporation, LARB is reader supported. Everything we are doing is for you, and can only be done with your support.

Please help us continue our good work by donating as generously as you can to our end-of-year matching grant fund drive. The Goldhirsh Foundation and an anonymous donor have put up $75,000 to match your donations.

LARB is independent, provocative, timely, and free-of-charge. We publish digitally, in print, in podcasts, on the radio, and in short films the best thinking and writing about books and culture today. We are read in all 50 states and some 150 countries worldwide. With your help and support, we will continue to fulfill LARB‘s mission, always with you, our reader, in mind.

With warm best wishes for an enjoyable holiday season and a healthy, productive New Year.


Albert Litewka


This Week’s Triptych Artist: Skount

Featured images: “Inner universe projections: Radion,” Commission ephemeral mural for Radion Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Skount (Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, 1985) is currently based in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). Inspired by the classical Spanish theatre of his hometown, Skount’s oneiric masked characters beckon the viewer from the urban environment into their mysterious and playful dreamscapes. The great playwrights of Skount’s youth formed a lasting impression, where he regards life as a wonderful play, in which everyone has a role.

Driven by the fundamental desire to free his own mind, Skount’s creativity knows no bounds. With a background in Streetart, his artistic expression spans paint, paper, music and performance, to video art, sculpture, and installation. Yet Skount always comes back to masks. Humans the world over, have used masks since ancient times for sacred rituals, as ornamentation, and in performances and theatre. The mask disguises the identity of its wearer, and symbolizes the need to hide or repress a person’s desires, fears and concerns. Skount observes that everybody carries a mask, with it we conceal our identity and adopt a more socially acceptable image to get by day to day. But we can also choose the moments and people with whom we can reveal our true nature, and take off our masks.

Skount’s irrepressible curiosity for other cultures has inspired him to travel and study different forms of creativity and traditions around the world. Skount has worked and exhibited throughout Spain, Europe, Israel, China, Japan, Australia, Mexico and the United States.



Text by: Phillipp Barth


Obsessing Over JG Ballard and His Terrible City

All images by James H. Bollen. 

By Paul French

James H. Bollen is a British photographer, author, and translator based in Shanghai. Since arriving in the city half a dozen years ago, he has been searching for the traces left by JG Ballard, the cult author of post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels and short stories who died in 2009. Ballard was born in Shanghai in 1930, attended the International Settlement’s Cathedral School, and was later interned for the duration of the Second World War with his parents in the nearby Lunghua Civilian Assembly Centre. After this experience he eventually settled in England in 1945 and soon began writing avant garde fiction. From the start his short stories and novels were infused with leitmotifs and resonances from his Shanghai boyhood and teenage years in a Japanese internment camp.

In his new book (with an introduction by Fay Ballard, JG’s eldest daughter), Jim’s Terrible City: JG Ballard and Shanghai, Bollen explores contemporary Shanghai looking for images that encapsulate unmistakably Ballardian themes: time, violence, consumerism and surrealism. Paul French, longtime Shanghai resident, author, and Ballard fan, spoke to Bollen at his home in Shanghai about the impetus and inspiration for his new photographic tribute to the author and Shanghailander. Continue reading

cecil blig

The LARB End-of-Year Editor Interviews: Cecil Castellucci

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going;  we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. Here we present Cecil Castellucci, Young Adult Fiction Editor. Check out today’s YA special coverage on the legacy of Little Red Riding Hood stories and how they’ve evolved: Aisha Anwar’s “In the Shadow of the Wolf,” and Claire Jimenez’s “Eight Ways Red.”

Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?

When Tom Lutz launched the LA Review of Books, he wanted to make sure that all the literary nooks were covered.  I had met him at various functions in Los Angeles and since I am so involved with the YA world in Los Angeles he turned to me. I edit the YA and Children’s section.  This means mostly I commission or accept pitches for thought pieces and essay’s on Young People’s Literature.  I am a full time Young Adult author.   Continue reading