Upcoming: EVERYTHING NOW by Rosecrans Baldwin (MCD)

BaldwinR-EverythingNowUSLike a lot of people who don’t live there, I am fascinated by Los Angeles. It’s a city I’ve visited only three times, but each time it captured my imagination. My favourite crime series is set there (Connelly’s Bosch), many other favourite novels are set in or around Los Angeles, and I’m also fascinated by the workings and behind-the-scenes of Hollywood. I have not, however, read much general history or non-fiction about the city and/or region. This summer, there are a couple of books that have caught my attention. The first is Everything Now by Rosecrans Baldwin. Here’s the synopsis:

A provocative, exhilaratingly new understanding of America’s most confounding metropolis — not just a great city, but a full-blown modern city-state

America is obsessed with Los Angeles. And America has been thinking about Los Angeles all wrong, for decades, on repeat. Los Angeles is not just the place where the American dream hits the Pacific. Not just the end of the line anymore. Not just the vanishing point of America’s western drive. Not just a city.

Los Angeles is best understood as a city-state. Functionally, aesthetically, mythologically, even technologically — a small independent territory, a sovereign place, a city and surrounding regions bound together by population density and an aura of autonomy and a sense of unfurling destiny. This is Los Angeles.

Deeply researched and reported, provocatively argued, and eloquently sung, Rosecrans Baldwin’s Everything Now reveals the borders and probes the ecology of this Great American City-State, enumerates its cultural treasures and economic prowess, hails its heroes and charts its landmarks, plumbs its social and economic history, catalogs its canonical literature (from John Fante to Joan Didion to Mike Davis to Octavia Butler), probes its religions and spiritual practices, its languages and cuisines, and seeks the keys to its future. It is a protean, vibrant place — vastly more than its many, many parts.

Welcome to Los Angeles, the Great American City-State.

Rosecrans Baldwin’s Everything Now is due to be published by MCD in North America and in the UK, on June 15th, 2021.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: AFTERPARTIES by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco)

SoAV-AfterpartiesUSAn engaging collection of short stories

Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.

A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.

Afterparties is the first and only book by Anthony Veasna So, who tragically passed away in December. I hadn’t read any of his short stories (many of which have been published elsewhere) before learning of this collection. As someone who is fascinated by California and an avid reader of fiction set in that state, I was intrigued by the alternative perspective this collection promised. I was not disappointed: Afterparties is an engaging, oft-endearing read. Continue reading

Mini-Review: CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki (Little, Brown)

LepuckiE-CaliforniaUKPBAn interesting, different dystopian novel

The sunshine state lies in darkness.

Los Angeles is in ruins, left to the angels now.

And the world Cal and Frida have always known is gone.

Cal and Frida have left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can’t reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant. 

Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realise this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

Edan Lepucki’s debut rocketed to the top of bestseller lists when it received the Colbert Bump — in the midst of the Hachette-Amazon feud, Stephen Colbert mentioned the novel as a debut that people should check out, but one that was not available to pre-order (very important for debuts) because of the ongoing battle between the retailer and publisher. As a fan of dystopian fiction, I was naturally intrigued. It’s taken me a while to get around to reading it, though. It’s an interesting take on the sub-genre, with some interesting things to say, too. Continue reading