Gentle readers: It gives me great pleasure to introduce our new weekly column on books, written by longtime Weekly contributor, UC Irvine egghead, and host of KPFK-FM 90.7's Bibliocracy Radio, Andrew Tonkovich! Every Sunday morning, Andrew will write about books written by Orange County authors or dealing with Orange County. Today, he gives us a quick reading list–now, without further ado, the Tonk!
Welcome to the Bibliofella's new weekly books blog for Orange County and beyond, a coffee klatch where I drink too much Joe and get overly excited about all the books you should be reading. Here reigns the dictatorship of the booklateriat, me, where I go on and on, but somehow still with brevity, wit and plenty of completely unsupportable claims about what I agree with myself about. Comments from readers? Well, if you insist, sure, why not? I have to warn you I am a real madcap, mercurial yet incredibly, charmingly persuasive.
Who knows: one week I might demand your support of a small, important avant-garde experiment. The following, I could easily pander to provincial middle-brow Orange County tastes, throwing you easy picks by way of our shared limits as regards geography and imagination. You decide. No, don't! I will, insisting on my own terrific opinions. Want to discuss a book you haven't read? Get your own blog. Call it “But I Saw the Movie.” (A better name than this one's.)
For now let's synchronize our tastes, yours to the Bibliofella's. Embarking upon our maiden voyage on the S.S. Bookly, full steam ahead, I present a list of required OC literary reading: books you've read already and are conversant in, will purchase and read immediately, or simply buy and display on a shelf in your luxury home, condo, apartment or parents' living room now labeled, “The Bibliofella Recommends.” (Send photos.)
Heads up: If you score “already read” on let's say half of these, consider yourself automatically enrolled in my book club. With membership comes an actual club you can use to beat on the head those who haven't, or only threaten them. Haven't read any at all? Read fast. Wear a helmet.
Online bonus feature! I've taken the liberty of describing you, to yourself, horoscope-style. Helpful, right? The short reader profile matches, remarkably and always completely accurately, the book suggested on Mr. Bib's list. Don't say I never gave you anything, besides the blog, the club and, an the chance to turn off the annoying TV, video game, cell phone or other machine you're plugged into, in other words to get what we bibliophiles call a life of the mind.
1. You're smart, political, drink too much, can't recognize your own hypocrisy. You buy drinks for others because maybe they will like you. Or maybe the barman or waitress will like you. Book: Victoria Patterson's interconnected short story collection, Drift, about truly awful, unhappy people in Newport Beach. Schadenfreude meets self contempt. Trust me.
2. You minored in English. So you know this book, saw the movie, which featured the young Ellen Barkin. The Bibliofella loves her, just so you know. Book: E.L Doctorow's The Book of Daniel, for no good reason except the excellent one that it ends in Corona del Mar and Doctorow, the Bibliofella's favorite novelist, wrote it while teaching at UCI. And it's based on the story of the Rosenbergs.
3. You're a brand-new Navel Gazing blogger and unshy about pandering to your boss, the Weekly editor. You're jealous that this funny-looking Mexican-American guy seems to have it all: political advice column, food reviews, beautiful girlfriend, radio interviews, two published books. Book: Gustavo Arellano, Orange County: A Personal History. Historical revisionism meets autobiography with jokes and, yes, restaurant recommendations from the ¡Ask a Mexican! columnist.
5. You regularly read the print edition of the New York Times book review, and saw the front-page celebration of this gorgeous book. Or maybe now you are looking it up online, as you should. Book: Michelle Latiolais, Widow: Stories. A short story collection whose writing gives us pleasure in just being in the company of the writer, who happens to run the MFA writing program over at UCI.
6. You are a librarian, a poet, or you find poets and librarians to be mercurial madcaps whose irony and wordplay sings. Book: Stephanie Brown, Domestic Interior.
7. You dig Vonnegut, George Saunders, or you live in your parent's basement and are both unemployed and unrealistically ambitious. You shop at OC's best used bookstore, Bookman in Orange, which is probably the only place to buy this out-of print novel. Or maybe shoplift it. Book: Beemer: A Novel, Glen Gaslin. A guy trademarks himself as a concept for sale.
8. What, another OC Weekly writer? You are a drug dealer, biker, amateur OC historian. You want to buy the old house in the canyons where Timothy Leary dropped acid. Book: Nick Schou, Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love and Acid to the World. 'Nuff said.
9. You are a drug dealer, biker, and surfer. Book: Kem Nunn, Tapping the Source. Huntington Beach never looked so bad, by which I mean good. Also out of print, which is just plain wrong.
10. You are an intellectual who, like Susan Sontag, pledges to keep herself alive, fighting cancer, even if all that is left of you is your big, smart brain inside your head. Book: Susan Sontag, In America. Turn-of-the-century actress starts a commune in the canyons.
Let me know how you did. Coming weeks: Hector Tobar's novel about what might be Ladera Ranch, a biography of rock star Polish actress Madame Modjeska (see above), UC Irvine "magic workshop” alums, Chapman professor and journalist Tom Zoellner on guns in Arizona and everywhere.
Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday night literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.