Ash Pick Up Artist photo

How to Be a Male God: Beijing’s Pick Up Artist Scene

By Alec Ash

Xia’er, a 22-year-old music graduate from Hunan Province, is short, with a boyish complexion and no steady job. He is an average catch.

Cirl, professional Pick Up Artist, has a ripped body, the confidence of a god, wears sparkling jewelry, and does magic. He is a ladykiller.

Cirl exists in Xia’er’s mind, also known as Studtown. If you let Xia’er keep talking, you might make the same mistake of thinking he is Cirl. If you let him do his magic tricks on you, and have two X chromosomes, watch out, you’ll be another notch on his wall the next morning. If you’re a guy, it’s OK. He will teach you. Continue reading

larb blog invisible bridge

California and The Invisible Bridge

Today’s post, a review of Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge, was originally published by LARB Channel Boom.

By Thad Kousser

When the immigrant refugees were first transported, in huddled mass after huddled mass, into federal facilities spread across the country, local reactions were visceral and virulent. Residents signed petitions to let them know they weren’t welcome, talk radio fanned the flames, and a San Diego congressman reported that his constituents saw the ostensible refugees as nothing but “diseased job seekers.” While the president preached that “we can afford to be generous to refugees” as “a matter of principle,” Governor Jerry Brown urged that any bill passed by Congress to aid the immigrants should be amended with a “jobs for America first” pledge. Continue reading

browsing

Love, or Nearest Offer: A Vignette From Beijing’s Marriage Market

Photo: Mr. Sun browsing the marriage market.

By Alec Ash

Mr. Sun is 67, with a helmet-shaped mop of silver hair, half his teeth missing, and a generally ragged look to him. He’s an old Beijinger, and lives near the east gate of Tiantan Park, not far from the Forbidden City. Every Sunday, he goes into the park — but not for a stroll. He’s there to browse in the marriage market, looking for a match for his daughter. Continue reading

LARB Blog triptych artist

Syria: Then and Now, Threatened Architecture

Today’s post concerns the current triptych image on our main site, by photographer Peter Aaron. The photo is part of a series, described below. 

In 2009, internationally acclaimed architectural photographer Peter Aaron visited Syria and during the course of several weeks recorded much of the country’s incomparable architectural and archaeological heritage. From Hellenistic and Roman ruins to Ottoman caravansarais, from medieval souks to Crusader castles, from early Christian pilgrimage sites to great Abbasid and Ummayad mosques, Aaron photographed a rich and remarkable array of sites, all still in use by local populations. Just months after his return to the U.S., the Syrian Civil War broke out. Since then, many of these magnificent structures, hundreds and even thousands of years old, have been severely damaged or destroyed.
 
From August 16 to September 7, fifty of Aaron’s most unforgettable Syrian images will be displayed at Art Space, 71 Palatine Road, Germantown New York. (Germantown is between Hudson and Rhinebeck.) Opening hours are Saturdays 11-5, Sundays 11-3. Opening reception Saturday, August 16 from 5-7.

larb blog israel

The Silence Within Silence

Photo: Terri Weifenbach

By Joanna Chen

Yesterday there was a ceasefire. The night before, the booms did not stop. At 3 AM the house shuddered and the walls shook. At 8 AM, as the ceasefire began, silence fell upon the house. I stood at my front door with a second cup of coffee. The cat kept close, curling herself around my bare feet. At 8:05 there was a final crescendo, a deafening boom from the direction of Gaza. A bird lifted into the air, and before I saw the bird I heard its wings beating: one, two, three. I listened to the silence that followed as if I were listening to it for the first time. There are nuances to silence, there are degrees and shades to silence. This was a heavy, ominous one and it lay upon the air the whole day and did not move. Continue reading

larb blog night heron

Tricks of Two Trades: A Q&A on Writing News Reports and Spy Novels with Night Heron Author Adam Brookes

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

I’ve known Adam Brookes since 1999, when we met in Beijing where he was covering China for the BBC, and I’ve followed his career with interest ever since.  When I learned that Adam, whose latest reporting assignment has been the Pentagon, was trying his hand at a spy novel, I was intrigued. Then, after reading an advance copy of Night Heron, I was impressed. I found it a gripping read, well deserving of the strong reviews its been getting in varied periodicals.  (In his review of the book for this publication, Paul French aptly described the book  as a “genuine page turner” by an author who is “excellent at describing contemporary Beijing” and knows how to “grab us from the start” with clever plotting.) I recently caught up with Adam and asked him a series of questions about his shift from working in journalism to writing fiction, which he was good enough to answer via email in a thoughtful and detailed way: Continue reading

larb blog hoffman

Where I’m Calling From: Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014

Today on the blog we revisit a piece from LARB Channel Avidly on the passing of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, in light of his latest and last starring movie role in A Most Wanted Man.

By Philip Maciak

Philip Seymour Hoffman was great on the telephone. If you start to think about it, it’s going to be hard to stop. He’s unbelievably, pitifully terrifying foisting phone sex on Jane Adams inHappiness; exploding with frustrated, syncopated rage at Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love; being coolly, almost elegantly threatening in Mission Impossible III; quietly preaching the gospel of Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. And in Magnolia, his Phil Parma picks up a preposterously large cellular phone to find his dying patient’s estranged son and realizes that his job, the work that he does for a living, is, to some extent or another, the work of compassion. This was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work, too. And he did it better than any one else of his generation. Continue reading

Sarah Dessen

Notes to a Visiting Author: “Make This Thing Worth Your While!”

Photo: Chapel Hill local and YA author Sarah Dessen at a reading at Flyleaf Books

Flyleaf Books is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and hosts hundreds of authors a yearWhen we asked marketing coordinator Linnie Green to write a piece for LARB, there was no hesitation on the topic.   “Rumor has it that if brick-and-mortar bookstores disappear,” she warns, “Amazon plans to institute a mandatory uniform of silly hats and uncomfortable tweed trousers.” How to avoid this fate?  Authors, make sure to team up with local bookstores. Continue reading

larb blog digs cover

To Die and Live in Studio City

By Alex Harvey

Back in 1939, Aldous Huxley’s first Californian novel, After Many a Summer Dies The Swan, satirized the local obsession with and search for eternal life. Huxley created a protagonist, Jo Stoyte, a classic Hollywood magnate, who spends his fortune on a quest for personal immortality. Stoyte wants to arrest time; he hires a scientist, Dr. Obispo, to find a breakthrough in medicine that could ensure eternal life. Separate from his personal quest, Stoyte is also the owner of a mortuary. He is happy to profit from the deaths of others. His cemetery is successful, moreover, precisely because it presents itself as a kind of abolition of death. Pordage, the historian, reflects that death has been vanquished in the mortuary not by freeing the spirit from the moribund body, but by “preserving that body, injecting it with embalming fluids, painting over its pallor, twisting its grimaces into the likeness of a smile.” Stoyte’s dead bodies appear to be living even after death. In the ever physically optimistic California, Huxley prophesizes, “the crones of the future will be golden, curly and cherry lipped, neat-ankled and slender.” Continue reading

larb blog ernest and celestine

Bastille Day in Beverly Hills: The Revolution, Televised

Photo: Ernest and Celestine, New Video Group, 2014

Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Marginalia. 

By Ted Scheinman

We were both light in the head from a five-mile hike that had verged on a vision quest — too many miles with too little water under a cloudless sky at Calabasas Peak. It therefore took me a moment to adjust when we found ourselves later that evening strolling through rings of bunting-balloons, a grand promenade of red, white, and blue arches that slipped into the distance, suggesting a Homeric archery contest produced by Marvel. Continue reading