Friday, April 30, 2010

This Wicked World, by Richard Lange

Set in L.A., Lange's visceral, hard-hitting first novel puts him squarely in the ring with the best young neo-noir writers. Jimmy Boone, a former Marine and ex-con lying low and waiting out his probation by tending bar on Hollywood Boulevard, gets drawn back onto dangerous ground after he agrees to help his bouncer buddy, Robo, look into the death of a young Guatemalan immigrant found covered in infected dog bites on an MTA bus. Boone and Robo get on a trail that leads from a ghetto dope pad, where they rescue an abused and toothless fighting dog, to a secluded desert compound near Twentynine Palms, where a psychotic crime boss, Taggert, hosts bloody dog-fighting contests. Boone soon finds himself in way over his head as he comes up against Taggert's crew of degenerates. While the book contains some familiar set pieces, Lange, the author of the story collection Dead Boys, shows he has the potential to put his own distinctive mark on the mythology of Los Angeles. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"Anyone left who's keen on noirish flicks like Heat or Chinatown, or finds kindred spirits in Thomas McGuane, Denis Johnson, or Charles Bukowski, will find comrades among these dead men."
Rocky Mountain News, Clayton Moore

"Ex-con tries to keep straight in this hard-boiled first novel....Compelling characters. Even the minor players are fully-formed, and Lange manages to depict a little bit of L.A. with each one....Smartly entertaining noir." Kirkus Reviews

"It's violent, it's truthful, and it's devastating." New York Times Book
Review, Marilyn Stasio

"Lange draws indelible characters and writes deadeye dialogue, and his L.A. is as parched and pitiless as the desert that surrounds it....This Wicked World is wickedly good-and we have a feeling that Lange is just getting started." Booklist Keir Graff

"Lange is incapable of creating a character that isn't memorable. Even the most minor are indelibly sketched....Lange has a knack for miniature Southern California tableaux, those things that we notice out of the corner of our eyes....The zone where literary fiction meets genre fiction is a crowded borderland these days. With This Wicked World, Lange proves himself comfortable on both sides of the line." Los Angeles Times, Antoine Wilson

"Memorable....Richard Lange's first book set the bar so high that his sophomore effort had almost no chance of living up to the hype-except that it does, an L.A. Confidential for the 21st
Century....It's a sharp, literary crime novel with the kind of lean and sparse prose that writers like Elmore Leonard and Richard Stark honed to a razor's edge. It's also a worthy entry in the proud tradition of Los Angeles noir novels started by James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler....A lot of writers try to write like this, but Lange just does it and he makes it work ." Daily BeastDavid, J. Montgomery

"Set in L.A., Lange's visceral, hard-hitting first novel puts him squarely in the ring with the best young neo-noir writers....Lange, the author of the story collection Dead Boys, shows he has the potential to put his own distinctive mark on the mythology of Los Angeles." Publishers Weekly

"Stylistically brilliant, painfully and truly observed and rendered, Dead Boys is not just one of the best collections thus far this decade: Dead Boys is one of the best short story collections of the past fifty years, right up there with Barry Hannah's Airships, Chris Offutt's Kentucky Straight, James Baldwin's Going to Meet the Man, and Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find." San Francisco Chronicle Eric Williamson

"The best debut collection we have read all year....You could shelve Lange between Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Richard Yates, and no fights would break out...Lange writes with tremendous heart." E! Online, Tod Goldberg

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Join us on May 15th in Venice, CA for Vis-à-Vis

Three readings with ten prominent contemporary French/Francophone and American writers, workshops for kids to discover French and literature all day long. Vis-à-vis is free and open to the public. Discover the full schedule:

11am - 12:30pm
Philippe Djian / Steve Erickson / Norman Klein
"The novel Vs. cinema and television"
Consortium Gallery - 1100 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA

2:30pm - 4:00pm
James Frey / Richard Lange / Jean Rolin
"Writing on the city, writing on the margins"
G2 Gallery - 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA

4:30pm - 6:00pm
Alain Mabanckou / Véronique Ovaldé / Boualem Sansal / Danzy Senna
"Writing: a quest for identity?"
Electric Lodge - 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, CA

6:00pm Cocktail @ Electric Lodge


10:30am - 1:00pm
Workshops for kids
Ecole Claire Fontaine - 226 Westminster Ave., Venice, CA

1:30pm - 6:00pm
Literary Workshops for kids with the Alliance Française de Los Angeles
Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library - 501 S. Venice Blvd., Venice, CA

Download the full schedule & map by clicking here

Monday, April 26, 2010

The German Mujahid, by Boualem Sansal

Boualem Sansal is an internationally acclaimed Algerian author. Since his debut novel, Le serment des Barbares, winner of the Best First Novel Prize in France in 1999, he has been widely considered one of his country's most important contemporary authors.

The German Mujahid

Based on a true story and inspired by the work of Primo Levi,
The German Mujahid is a heartfelt reflection on guilt and the harsh imperatives of history.
The two brothers Schiller, Rachel and Malrich, couldn't be more dissimilar. They were born in a small village in Algeria to a German father and an Algerian mother, and raised by an elderly uncle in one of the toughest ghettos in France. But there the similarities end. Rachel is a model
immigrant-hard working, upstanding, law-abiding. Malrich has drifted. Increasingly alienated and angry, his future seems certain: incarceration at best. Then Islamic fundamentalists murder the young men's parents in Algeria and the event transforms the destinies of both brothers in unexpected ways. Rachel discovers the shocking truth about his family and buckles under the weight of the sins of his father, a former SS officer. Now Malrich, the outcast, will have to face that same awful truth alone. Banned in the author's native Algeria for of the frankness with which it confronts several explosive themes, The German Mujahid is a truly groundbreaking novel. For the first time, an Arab author directly addresses the moral implications of the Shoah. But this richly plotted novel also leaves its author room enough to address other equally controversial issues-Islamic fundamentalism and Algeria's "dirty war" of the early 1990s, for example; or the emergence of grim Muslim ghettos in France's low-income housing projects. In this gripping novel, Boualem Sansal confronts these and other explosive questions with unprecedented sincerity and courage.

"The German Mujahid, winner of the RTL-Lire Prize for fiction, is a marvelous, devilishly well- constructed novel . . . Terror, doubt, revolt, guilt, and despair-an entire range of sentiments is admirably depicted in this book."-

"With extraordinary eloquence, Sansal condemns both the [Algerian] military and Islamic fundamentalists; he decries that Algeria crippled by trafficking, religion, bureaucracy, the culture of illegality, of coups, and of clans, career apologists, the glorification of tyrants, the love of flashy materialism, and the passion for rants."-
Lire (France)

"The German Mujahid deals with the fine line between the destructive power wielded by Islamic fundamentalism today and the power of another movement that left an indelible mark on history: Nazism."-Haaretz (Israel)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zeroville, by Steve Erickson

STEVE ERICKSON is the author of eight novels: Days Between Stations, Rubicon Beach, Tours of the Black Clock, Arc d'X, Amnesiascope, The Sea Came in at Midnight, Our Ecstatic Days and Zeroville. He also has written two books about American politics and popular culture, Leap Year and American Nomad. Numerous editions have been published in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Greek, Russian and Japanese. Over the years he has written for Esquire, Rolling Stone, Bookforum, Frieze, Conjunctions, Salon, the L.A. Weekly, the New York Times Magazine and other publications and journals, and his work has been widely anthologized. Currently he's the film critic for Los Angeles magazine and editor of the literary journal Black Clock, which is published by the California Institute of the Arts where he teaches in the MFA Writing Program. He has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2007 was awarded a fellowship by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. In 2010 he was nominated for the National Magazine Award for his film criticism and was the recipient of one of seven awards in literature given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives with his wife, artist and director Lori Precious, and their family.

I believe that cinema was here from the beginning of the world.
Josef von Sternberg


On the same August day in 1969 that a crazed hippie "family" led by Charles Manson commits five savage murders in the canyons above Los Angeles, a young ex-communicated seminarian arrives with the images of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift — "the two most beautiful people in the history of the movies" — tattooed on his head. At once childlike and violent, Vikar is not a cinéaste but "cineautistic," sleeping at night in the Roosevelt Hotel where he's haunted by the ghost of D. W. Griffith. Vikar has stepped into the vortex of a culture in upheaval: strange drugs that frighten him, a strange sexuality that consumes him, a strange music he doesn't understand. Over the course of the Seventies and into the Eighties, he pursues his obsession with film from one screening to the next and through a series of cinema-besotted conversations and encounters with starlets, burglars, guerrillas, escorts, teenage punks and veteran film editors, only to discover a secret whose clues lie in every film ever made, and only to find that we don't dream the Movies but rather they dream us.

"Funny, disturbing, daring... dreamlike and sometimes nightmarish. Erickson's best."
New York Times Book Review

"One of a kind... a funny, unnervingly surreal page turner... sets off fireworks in any movie lover's head."

"Zeroville is funny, sad and darkly beautiful. Over his entire career Erickson has challenged readers with a fiercely intelligent and surprisingly sensual brand of American surrealism. "
Washington Post Book World

"Beautifully lucid... manages to wipe clean the presumptions typically guiding the Hollywood Novel."
Los Angeles Times Book Review (front page)

"God I love this book... a feral and entertaining ride with cultural references, quirky koans and a few surreal pit stops"
Philadelphia Inquirer

"Magnificent. Zeroville transports us to fully recognizable places we didn't know existed."
The Believer

"Steve Erickson adapts nearly the oldest story in the book, threads it through the projector through which all film history spins, and... throws light and shadow onto the backs of our eyelids in this love letter to celluloid. If you're a film fan, run, don't walk: Zeroville is your novel of the year."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kick the Animal Out, by Véronique Ovaldé

Véronique Ovaldé is the author of the novels The Sleep of Fishes, All Things Shimmering, and Generally I Like Men. Kick the Animal Out, originally published as Déloger l’animal by Actes Sud in France and Leméac in Canada, is her fourth novel. She lives and works in Paris.

If you’re looking for a story with a happy ending, you won’t find it in Veronique Ovalde’s tale,
Kick the Animal Out – but not every story can end like a fairy tale.

This surprisingly sad story begins with a young girl, Rose, apparently suffering from special needs (never specifically described) and therefore attending a school referred to as the Institute. She lives with her strangely distant and beautiful mother and a man Rose knows as Mr. Loyal, whom Rose believes is not her biological father. The relationship between her parents lacks passion and results in a desperate attempt by young Rose to garner the attention and love she needs: the little girl dons a cape and “flies” from a third-story window.

While Rose is recuperating in the hospital, her mother, who has been increasingly withdrawn and quiet in the days leading up to the incident, fails to return home after work one day. She has inexplicably disappeared. In an effort to stave off the resulting trauma, fifteen-year-old Rose formulates imaginative scenarios that might explain her mother’s disappearance and Mr. Loyal’s passive acceptance of the situation.

The sheer sadness of the little girl’s plight will break your heart. Ovalde has developed a character whose fragility is overcome by her loving spirit. Rose’s determination to ferret out the truth from resistant adults makes her a true heroine. As you walk through the fear with Rose, you will wish to hold her in your arms and comfort her.

While the basic plot of the story is solid, the book is difficult to follow at times. This may be the result of a conscious effort on Ovalde’s part to convey the thoughts of a little girl with special needs. Not a huge problem for the reader, but I found myself reading some passages more than once for clarity. Don’t let that deter you from reading the book, however.

This is Veronique Ovalde’s fourth novel; I highly recommend it. You will be captivated from the beginning to the end.

"A first-person novel that pivots on the vanishing of a disturbed teenage girl's flaky mum sounds like a recipe for gritty realism. Yet this sensuous and sinister French récit delivers a more artful punch." By Boyd Tonkin, The Independant.

Christians in Palestine, by Jean Rolin

Christians in Palestine is journalist Jean Rolin's highly personalized account of the lives of the Arab Christian population in Palestine. Set on the eve of the Iraq War, when Rolin visited Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem, this detailed portrayal reveals a people torn between their religious beliefs and their Arab patriotism, loathe to criticize their Muslim leaders and eager to blame their misfortune on the Israelis. Despite the importance of the community as guardians of the holy sites of Christianity, the Palestinian Christians suffer under a society governed by increasingly radicalized fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. As a consequence of the ongoing Middle East conflict, the Palestinian Christian rate of emigration is so high that they are now on the verge extinction, despite their presence in Palestine for over 2,000 years. Abandoned by their leadership and the international community, many believe that Palestinian Christianity will soon die if a peaceful resolution cannot be found between Israel and Palestine. Through his eloquent descriptions of the landscape and his intimate portrait of a community under siege, award-winning journalist Jean Rolin captures a little known aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in vivid detail.

Jean Rolin's journalism has won many awards in France, including the Albert Londres Prize and the Prix MA(c)dicis. "Christians" is his first book to be translated into English.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History, by Danzy Senna

In the tradition of James McBride's The Color of Water, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? is "a stunningly rendered personal heritage that mirrors the complexities of race, class, and ethnicity in the United States" (Booklist).

The daughter of a black father and a white mother, both writers and activists in the Civil Rights Movement, Danzy Senna grew up in Boston and attended Stanford University. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, where she received several creative writing awards. She lives in New York City. Her two first books, Caucasia (1999) and Symptomatic (2003), were both great success encensed by critics. Danzy Senna's last book, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History (2009) follow the same way of success.

"Senna is masterly at relaying--and, more important, withholding--information . . . every lead, every twist, begs for a page-flip."-By David Matthews, The New York Times Book Review.

“The author's memoir seeks to untangle the complicated past of her mixed-race family and come to terms with the father she barely knows.” -By Erin Aubry-Kaplan, the Los Angeles Times.

“Senna’s family tree looks like a giant oak cleaved by lightning.”- By Meghan Allen, Elle.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History, by Danzy Senna.

"In 1975 my mother left my father for the last time. We fled to Guilford, Connecticut. It was a rich town, but we rented an apartment in a tenement that the town's residents referred to only as "the welfare house." The backyard was a heap of dead cars. We lived on the second floor. Below us lived the town's other nonwhite residents, a Korean war bride and her two half -Italian sons. Beside them lived an obese white mother and son. I don't know if we were officially hiding out from my father there—or if he know where we were all that time. In my memory it seems that a long time passed before we saw him again, long enough for me to forget him. And I remember the day he reappeared. I was five, and I heard the doorbell ring. I raced in bare feet to see who was there. I saw, at the bottom of the dimly lit stairwell, a man. His face was hidden in the shadows, but I could make out black curls, light brown skin."Hi, baby," he called up to me.

I stared back.

"Don't you know who I am?"

I shook my head.

"You don't you know who I am?"

I knew and I didn't know. I had memories of the man at the bottom of the stairwell, both good and bad—but I could no say who he was. I only knew that I had known him, back there in the city, and the sight of him now made me uneasy.

My mother emerged behind me in a housedress. I heard a sound in her throat—a gasp or a sigh—when she saw whom I was talking to.

"See that?" the man shouted up at her. "See what you've done? She doesn't even know who I am. My own child doesn't recognize me."

I began to cry, perhaps recalling now all that we had fled. My mother shushed me.

"It's your father," she said, gathering me into her arms. I turned to watch him come toward us up the stairs.

Thirty years later. And he's still asking me that question.

"Don't you know who I am?"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Broken Glass - Alain Mabanckou

The acclaimed author of AFRICAN PSYCHO returns with this "shocking, hilarious, innovative" novel (Magazine Litteraire). Coming June 2010

Alain Mabanckou's riotous new novel centers on the patrons of a run-down bar in the Congo. In a country that appears to have forgotten the importance of remembering, a former schoolteacher and bar regular nicknamed Broken Glass has been elected to record their stories for posterity. But Broken Glass fails spectacularly at staying out of trouble as one denizen after another wants to rewrite history in an attempt at making sure his portrayal will properly reflect their exciting and dynamic lives. Despondent over this apparent triumph of self-delusion over self-awareness, Broken Glass drowns his sorrows in red wine and riffs on the great books of Africa and the West. Brimming with life, death, and literary allusions, Broken Glass is Mabanckou's finest novel--a mocking satire of the dangers of artistic integrity.

"Pulses with energy and invention." --Kate Saunders, The Times (London)

"Although its cultural and intertextual musings could fuel innumerable doctorates, the real meat of Broken Glass is its comic brio, and Mabanckou's jokes work the whole spectrum of humour...Much of the writing from Africa (or at least most of the stuff we get to see) is of an earnest or grim character, and it makes a pleasant change to encounter a writer who isn't afraid of a laugh." --Tibor Fischer, The Guardian

Broken Glass / Soft Skull Press, by Alain Mabanckou

"today is another day, a grey day, I try not to be sad, and my poor mother, whose spirit still drifts somewhere over the dirty water of the Tchinouka, always used to say you shouldn’t let the grey days get you down, perhaps life’s waiting for me somewhere, I wish someone would wait for me somewhere, too, and I’ve been sitting in my corner here since five o’clock this morning, I’ve got a bit more distance on things now, so I should be able to write about them better, it’s four or five days now since I finished the first part of this book, it makes me smile when I read through some of the pages, they go back quite a way now, I wonder whether deep down I should be proud of it, I reread a few lines, but mostly it frustrates me, nothing really fires me up, in fact everything irritates me, it’s nobody’s fault, I feel weak, my tongue feels mushy, as though I’d eaten a meal of pork and green bananas the previous day, and yet I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday, and I’ve allowed this tide of black thoughts to wash over me, I’m beginning to wonder whether this isn’t my will I’m writing, even though I’ve no right to speak of a will since the day I do pop my clogs I’ll have nothing to leave
to anyone, all that’s just dreaming, but then dreaming’s the only thing that helps you keep a grip on this treacherous life, I still have a dream of life, even if my whole life now is lived in a dream, I’ve never been so clearheaded in all my days the days pass quickly, though at the time it seems like the opposite, when you’re sitting there, waiting for I don’t know what, just drinking and drinking, till you can’t move because your head’s spinning, watching the earth turn around on its own axis and around the sun, even if I’ve never believed those damn fool theories I used to teach my pupils when I was still a man like other men, you have to be mad to come out with that kind of far-fetched nonsense, because to tell you the truth, when I’m sitting here drinking and relaxing in the doorway of Credit Gone West, it seems impossible to me that the earth I see before me could be around, that it could be spinning away round itself and around the sun as though it had nothing better to do all day than spin around like a paper airplane, go on, somebody, show it to me turning around itself, show it to me turning around the sun, you have to be realistic, surely, let’s not allow ourselves to be bamboozled by thinkers who actually shaved themselves with a common flint or a roughly chiseled stone, maybe if they were really modern they used a bit of polished stone, anyway, roughly speaking, if I had to
analyze all that in detail, I would say that in the past people divided into two kinds of thinkers, on the one hand the ones who farted in the bath, then went around shouting “I’ve found it, I’ve found it” though nobody gave a shit about what they’d found, let them keep their discoveries to themselves, sometimes I’ve happened to take a dip in the river Tchinouka, which carried off my poor mother, and I never found anything worth talking about there, not every body
submerged in that dirty water automatically performs the famous rise to the surface, in fact that’s why all the shit from the Trois- Cents is lying on the riverbed, so someone better explain to me why the shit doesn’t obey the rule of Archimedes, and then there’s the second major category of crank, who were just plain lazy good-for-nothings who sat around the whole time under the nearest apple tree, waiting for apples to drop on their head, something to do with
attraction and gravity, I’m opposed to accepted beliefs, as far as I’m concerned the earth is as flat as the Avenue of Independence that runs past the door of Credit Gone West, that’s all there is to say about it, I declare the earth is sadly immobile, that it’s the sun that goes whizzing around us, because that’s what I see as it rises over the roof of my favorite bar, so enough of all this other stuff, and if anyone even tries to persuade me that the earth is round and turns
on its own axis and around the sun, I’ll chop his head off there and then, even if he does go down shouting “but it does turn”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bright Shiny Morning, James Frey

Bright Shiny Morning
is a "captivating urban kaleidoscope" (Maslin, New York Times).

James Frey is the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. After battling with alcohol addiction and spending time in rehab, he wrote
A Million Little Pieces which was published in 2003 in America and the following year in the UK to critical acclaim. He wrote the sequel, My Friend Leonard about life after rehab, which was published in 2005 in the US and the year after in the UK.

James Frey now lives in New York with his wife, daughter and dog. He is still writing.

Bright Shiny Morning

    Welcome to LA. City of contradictions.

    It is home to movie stars and down-and-outs. Palm-lined beaches and gridlock. Shopping sprees and gun sprees.

    Bright Shiny Morning takes a wild ride through the ultimate metropolis, where glittering excess rubs shoulders with seedy depravity. Frey’s trademark filmic snapshots zoom in on the parallel lives of diverse characters, bringing their egos and ideals, hopes and despairs, anxieties and absurdities vividly to life.

    Some suffer, like the otherworldly wino who tries to save a spoilt teenage runaway. Others gain, like the canny talent agent who turns sexual harassment to blackmailing advantage. Some are loaded, or grounded, and have luck on their side. Others, like the countless actresses-turned-hookers, or schoolboys-turned-gangsters, are doomed.

"James Frey is probably one of the finest and most important writers to have emerged in recent years." The Guardian.