The Golden Notebook

LARB’s Naked Bookseller Program is a collaboration with independent bookstores to help tell their stories and broaden their visibility across the country and around the world. A basic membership to LARB gets you a 10% discount at our participating partner stores through our Naked Bookseller card. By becoming a member, you support both the Los Angeles Review of Books AND independent booksellers. Below is the story of our newest partner in the program, The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, New York, told in their own words.

Named after original owner Ellen Shapiro’s favorite Doris Lessing novel, The Golden Notebook opened its doors on June 23, 1978. Shapiro and business partner Barry Samuels leased the storefront that had formerly been Joe Forno’s Colonial Pharmacy. Though there were already two bookstores in town – Twine’s and The Juggler – the pair was convinced theirs would be a cut above. Together they took out a Small Business Administration Loan, and with the help of legendary publisher Betty Ballantine renovated and stocked the store. Continue reading


In Every City, A Forest

Image: Felix Kiessling

By Joanna Chen

The fact that a Lufthansa plane had crashed the day before I flew to Berlin did not deter me in the least. El-Al is safer, a neighbor told me, referring to Israel’s national airline. Their security is better, she said. On my walk to the forest the morning of my flight, a friend made a face when I said I was flying Lufthansa. “Oh well,” she said, realizing I really was going. “Lightning doesn’t strike twice.”

I’ve been to Berlin several times in the past few years. Last autumn I got on the plane with hand luggage only – a pair of flip-flops, my laptop and a couple of swirly summer skirts. My dismayed partner, accustomed to my dubious packing talents, handed me his sweater and bought me an umbrella when we met up at Berlin’s Tegel airport. Continue reading

1947.2009.Map Differences

The Case of the Mistaken Maps

By Austin Dean

Maps are at the center of every territorial dispute. My map says this parcel of land over here belongs to me and always has; your map says that same parcel of land has belonged to you since time immemorial. Armed with supposed cartographic confirmation of competing claims, border dispute can last for decades.

In the midst of a territorial dispute, it is important to put maps on display. During Chinese National Day festivities last October, a large exhibit titled “Diaoyu Islands: History and Sovereignty” dominated the first floor of the National Library in Beijing. The intent was to overwhelm. Featuring a number of old documents, manuscripts, and maps, the message was clear: these rocks in the middle of the sea belong to us and always have. Continue reading


A Letter from Editor-in-Chief Tom Lutz

Hello friends of LARB, 

I’m writing you from Iowa City, which, primarily because of the legendary Writers Workshop and its International Writing Program, was named a UNESCO “City of Literature” – a distinction it shares with seven other cities, including Dublin and Prague, for instance. (It’s the only city in the US with the distinction, but it seems to me Los Angeles should be on that list…)

I’m here for the Mission Creek Festival, a music and arts festival with a lot of literary activity – Lorrie Moore read last night; Eula Biss, Kiese Laymon, Ander Monson, Luis Alberto Urrea, and others are taking part. I’m reading from a new travel book I’ve just finished, and sitting on a panel on publishing “in a digital landscape.”

I’ve sat on a number of panels like this over the last several years, and what always comes up, not surprisingly, is the question of the basic economic problem of the web: how do you pay for quality content when the old methods of doing so – advertising and subscriptions – no longer work. Our answer at the Los Angeles Review of Books has been to appeal directly to our readers; thousands of you have responded over the years and pitched in. We thank you, and literary culture thanks you.

We also continue to write grants and go after advertising dollars and corporate sponsors, and we continue to rely on an enormous amount of volunteer labor. But until “the digital landscape” changes, we will continue to need you to donate, as you have done so far, to keep us growing and thriving. We are launching our spring fund drive today, and hope you will once again help us do our part to build not just a city of literature, but the world of literature.

With very best wishes,

Tom Lutz


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Dreaming the Chinese Dream

Image: A bridge under construction in Chongqing, China. For some time now, China has been a world leader in infrastructure investment. It sometimes uses infrastructure spending to hedge against economic downturns.

By Tong Lam

Since 2013, the Chinese government has been promoting the idea of the “Chinese Dream.” While the specific meanings of the dream remain vague, the official propaganda has repeatedly emphasized that a central part of it is a yearning for national rejuvenation. This narrative of national revival not only builds on persistent sentiments of victimhood and pride; it also highlights the role of the Communist Party in leading the country out of a “Century of Humiliation” said to have begun with the Opium War (1839–1842) and returning it to the status of a great power. Continue reading


Muammer’s Last Day

Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel The Offing.

By Maruan Paschen

Translated by Amanda DeMarco

Muammer’s last day is my first day. I stand, eyes on the floor, in a classroom full of Arabs. Ms. Whyy from the Schiller Institute introduces me and immediately cracks a joke. Then another.

The new teacher has a really hard German name, she says, it’s hard to remember it: Said Maruan, she says and laughs, really loud.

Besides her, I’m laughing too, but not so loud.

I rub a piece of chalk between my fingers until it’s gone. A student in the last row understands the joke and grins retroactively. Ms. Whyy from the German Schiller Institute says her goodbyes and wishes me luck — don’t worry, the Arabs are a polite little tribe. Then she wishes the Arabs luck with me, but they don’t understand the joke, and neither do I. Continue reading

Cookie On My Mind 2

Cookie on My Mind

By Magdalena Edwards

It’s Wednesday again and I miss Cookie. I know I’m not the only one, given how Fox’s runaway hit show “Empire” increased its tune-in audience by 43.75% over the course of the season, from 9.9 million for the January 7th pilot to 17.6 million for its regular 9pm time slot during last week’s double-episode finale.[1] The numbers are higher if you factor in DVR[2] and Internet views. The show, featuring the roller coaster life of former drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul and CEO of Empire Enterprises Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his extended Philadelphia clan by business and by family, most notably his three sons Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), and his ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), is not without its critics[3] and controversy,[4] which only adds to the fun. Even Alessandra Stanley, of The New York Times and the Shonda Rhimes debacle,[5] deemed the season “pretty perfect.”[6] Continue reading


The People’s Republic of Amnesia and Age of Ambition Revisited: A Quick Q&A

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Many twelve-month periods witness the publication of one or two significant books by talented journalists with long experience covering China. 2014 was special, though, due to seeing not just an unusually large number but also a great variety of works of this sort appear. It was the year, for example, of Howard French’s China’s Second Continent, an ethnographically minded work based on interviews conducted with Chinese migrants in Africa, and also of the largely Beijing-set spy thriller Night Heron, by Adam Brookes. These two books have nothing in common save for the fact that both are by authors with a deep understanding of China, derived from their long experience covering the country — in French’s case for the New York Times, in Brookes’s for the BBC. And neither of those two 2014 publications were much like either of the ones flagged in the title of this post, which were part of the same bumper crop of China books. The first of these, by Louisa Lim, offers a detailed look at the legacy and contested memory of 1989’s protests and massacres, while the second, by Evan Osnos, provides a profile-driven survey of the current Chinese political and social scenes. Continue reading


Days and Nights of Candlewood

This piece was originally published by LARB Channel The Offing.

By Paul Lisicky

I knew that it was going to be temporary: You could live almost anywhere if it was going to be temporary, especially if there was a gleam on the other side. I said no to the places that were too roomy, too ugly, too severe. I believed that by moving my chairs and bed into two white rooms I’d be inoculating myself against personality. It turns out it is impossible to escape personality, even when the floors beneath you are cold enough to numb your feet. In the apartment above me the man sang the songs of his youth — Cinnamon Girl, Landslide — accompanying himself on a badly amped guitar. His boot steps, his throat clearing, the taps of his razor against the bathroom sink — the essence of him resounded into my space as if there was nothing between us. Occasionally, when he was talking on the phone, he used the word faggot in a tone that implied he’d never had any truck with one. Outside, on the parking lot, a mother used the word fuck against her two boys. Two cars away, a young woman drove the approximately 200 feet to the dumpster, tossed in a dark garbage bag, and drove back to her parking space. This happened twice a day. As for the BDSM enthusiast whose bedroom window looked right into mine? Although he referred to himself online as a top, his eyes showed betrayal every time I backed out of his invitations to dinner. I pictured my wrists in restraints and tried to be excited by the opera of it, but it only felt redundant. That didn’t mean I wasn’t obsessed with the possibility of hurting his feelings. Continue reading


A Q&A with The Offing

The Los Angeles Review of Books is happy to announce a new channel, The Offing, an online literary magazine publishing work in all genres. The project launched last week at

The Offing will publish risk-taking work by new, emerging, and established writers and artists — with an explicit commitment to publishing diverse voices. To learn more about the magazine, its origins and its goals, we asked the editors a few questions.

The following is a brief Q&A with The Offing editor-in-chief (and LARB Fiction editor) Darcy Cosper and the magazine’s executive editors, Airea D. Matthews and Michael D. Snediker. Continue reading