The canyons and meadows are greening up. The sun lingers in the afternoon sky. Literary Orange and the LA Times Festival of Books are right around the corner. Springtime, when a middle-aged man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, and the books arrive. Lots of 'em.No problem! Bring it on. I am, after all, that jolly book-geek at spring baby showers, birthday parties, weddings and write-ins who asks strangers what they're reading, hoping they'll ask me. I write down their recommendations, and unshyly share mine.
Mr. Bib's second favorite topic (I am my first, of course) is talking books and politics and radio shows–often, happily, the same thing. This week I stray a bit outside the actual geography if not the psycho-geography of my Orange County literary bailiwick, to share what's stacked at my bedside, in that tall pile which will kill me when the Big One strikes. But what a way to go! And to share recommendations from this week's Featured Librarian.
Indeed, who better to ask? But first, more about me and my terrific radio show! Gratifying to see recent Bibliocracy guest Julie Otsuka receive the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for her short, perfect novel The Buddha in the Attic, a story told in a kind of collective point of view by and about Japanese mail-order brides sent to husbands in California in the early 1900s. And speaking of my weekly literary arts show on KPFK, I just recorded a two-part interview with Bill Mohr, founder of So Cal's legendary Momentum Press, a poet himself, editor of poetry magazines and two seminal LA anthologies, and a tireless booster of his peers, including Leland Hickman, Jim Krusoe, Wanda Coleman, Paul Vangelisti, Amy Gerstler and Dennis Cooper, and everybody else important to the scene.
The book is a must-read cultural history (with politics, natch) tracing the radical secret world of the 50s through the Beats and Venice West to punk-underground resurgence, spoken word and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Foundation. The book is Hold-Outs: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948-1992.
And speaking of my friend and mentor Jim Krusoe, I just received a copy of his newest novel, Parsifal. More on that later for sure, but it appears to be about a war between the earth and sky as experienced by yet another unlikely repairman anti-hero. Parsifal meets a lot of librarians along the way, in his search for meaning. Sounds like Jimbo, author most recently of Toward You, about a kooky inventor guy who gets a post card from his dead mom, and Girl Factory, where a yogurt shop basement turns out to be a lab where women are held in suspended animation in vats of, yup, yogurt.
Michael Ryan, who teaches at UC Irvine and lives in OC, read recently at the most excellent UC Irvine Bookstore. I missed it. Damn. But I'm halfway through the predictably funny-crazy, resonant, story-ish poems in his new collection, This Morning. Ryan has been a serious poet for most of his life, winning the Yale Younger Poets award in 1974. Here's the opening of a newer poem:
Pinkwater (often heard on NPR). It's a nutty romp with bad jokes, clever wordplay, funny character names and a wild journey. I'll let Pinkwater describe it himself: The tale, the saga, the odyssey of young Neddie Wentworthstein, heir to a shoelace empire, and generally a nice kid. When his family decides to move from Chicago to Los Angeles, little does Neddie know that he is in store for a grand Hollywood adventure, whereupon he will meet the likes of swashbuckling actors, omniscient shamans, hungry ghosts, mysterious turtles, and an elephant or two. Fun, smart!
The Shyster's Daughter, Paula Priamos, Etruscan Press,250 pp., $16.00