Tue, 18 December 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake with Tom Lutz, founding editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, and author of the books Crying, American Nervousness, 1903, Cosmopolitan Vistas, and Doing Nothing. They discuss whether the internet has brought about a new golden age of the essay; giving writers the word count they need to write about the subjects they want to, such as the literature of Romania; "publish what you want to read" as a guiding editing principle as "write what you want to read" is a guiding writing principle; the team of specialized editors that help him sift through a hundred pitches per day; why on Earth the name Los Angeles Review of Books was still available in the 21st century, and the seat of its "steampunk" appeal; the curiously "doubled relationship" non-New Yorkers have to New York publishing; how his readership turned immediately global, and whether coming from as international a city as Los Angeles necessarily entails that; the internationalism of "taco trucks and Korean spas," and the attendant indifference of distinction between "high" and "low" culture; connection as the very purpose of essays, and cosmopolitanism and debate as the essence of literary culture; the possible corrupting influences of the review form itself; the surprising pieces he has run, such as Ben Ehrenreich's consideration of the "death of the book" which became a consideration of Bruno Schulz; what's to be done about the divide between popular writing and "professionally deformed" academic writing; the value of clarity, honesty, curiosity, and a little bit of obscurity; whether to rule out the parts of Los Angeles by now written into the ground, such as the freeways, the beach, and the entertainment business; his early wanderings through Los Angeles and how they placed him in the city the way books couldn't; and literature's inability to catch up with the expansiveness of Los Angeles, the way he couldn't read everything printed in the year 1903, and the way even Herbert Spencer couldn't capture his entire life in his three-volume autobiography.
Wed, 12 December 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in Los Angeles' Sunset Triangle with Jay Caspian Kang, editor at sports and pop culture site Grantland and author of the novel The Dead Do Not Improve. They discuss his youthful Midnight in Paris dream of drinking in red leather bars with dead authors; the racy science fiction of L. Ron Hubbard; the current or former importance of New York City as a destination for a youngster with literary ambitions; his avoidance of the role of "tribal writer," tacitly assigned with explaining his culture to outsiders; growing up imprinted by the last "dangerous," pre-pop hip-hop, which he used as a tool to deal with otherness in his North Carolina high school; filling his main character Philip Kim's head with that and other preoccupations of the era in which he grew up, such as The Simpsons; the thirty-ish generation's combination of high ambition with almost patternlessly scattered efforts, as exemplified by Lena Dunham; slightly younger creators' instinctive consciousness of themselves as a "brand" based on their volume of output; his desire to write a hyper-real novel of San Francisco that would skewer — sometimes by actually killing — that city's more self-satisfied sort of residents; the divide between old and new San Franciscans, and those who fell in between by growing up there in the eighties, when the utopian dreams had fallen through and the town needed an identity; how Chris Isaak turned up in his book; the Virginia Tech shooting, and how he and other Korean-Americans knew immediately that an Asian school shooter had to be Korean; the comparative racial situations of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and what makes Crash "one of the worst movies ever"; coming out of a "hoity-toity MFA program" and writing a genre novel versus one that uses the elements of genre; Troy McClure quotes providing the book with a "funny unreal superstructure," and other aspects of The Simpsons' "large intrusion" into the text; and Los Angeles as a writer's escape from the writerly life which doesn't demand that you be as young, old, rich, or poor as New York does.
Mon, 10 December 2012
Colin Marshall sits down at Hugo's Tacos in Los Angeles' Atwater Village with Adrian Todd Zuniga, founding editor of Opium magazine and impresario behind the international reading series Literary Death Match. They discuss what might make Los Angeles "the new Berlin"; his aim to make the city the literary center of the world by 2022; the hatred that flows into Los Angeles, but not out of it; Literary Death Match TV, the project that moved him here, and his battle against the idea of its being "too smart for television"; December 12th's live pilot shoot at Hollywood's Florentine Gardens; his experiences putting on Literary Death Matches in cities like Tulsa, Helsinki, Amsterdam, and Beijing; his love of his collaboration, whether or not it comes from growing up as the last of eight kids and always wanting to hang out with the most interesting people; how to "explode what literature is in the current pop culture landscape"; his frequent travel, his use of flights as a writing environment, and the thousand-page novel his travel memoir has become; turning your own experiences into fiction, and which rules that changes (especially the sexual ones); his transferring to 23 different schools in childhood due to the workplace conduct of his "tactless genius" father"; his current search for a "quieter sense of what life is" and the conflict between wanting to change book culture forever and wanting to go to sleep; and how he taps into the universal desire to feel literary.
Wed, 5 December 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in Portland's Pearl District with Camas Davis, food writer and founder of the Portland Meat Collective. They discuss why bacon has hit the zeitgeist so hard; her interest in fostering an "alternative economy of meat"; her former career writing travel pieces, which invariably and instinctively became food pieces; her education in the "meta-meta theoretical" exploration of food; how meat became cool again, after industrialization made it uncool (and not particularly tasty); her agreement with even the hardest-core animal-rights vegan about the horrors of industrial meat production; growing up in Eugene, where if you weren't vegetarian, you weren't cool; her return from vegetarianism to the meat-eating fold with a bacon meal while teaching in a women's prison; how American got itself into an entitlement mentality about cheap meat thrice a day; the importance of killing animals we eat ourselves, and how she finds some people are better at it than others; her time studying in southwestern France, what exactly separates French eating culture from American, and how the French are just getting into some of what has made American food unpalatable in recent decades; all the surprising things you can do with a pig's head; Portland's food consciousness and food renaissance, and how they might serve as a bellwether for a countrywide shift in attitudes about eating; Portland's suspicion of eateries that get "too big for their britches," which results in a certain elevated-comfort-food trademark cuisine; her butchery classes, in which she's found far fewer obnoxious hipster foodies enrolling than she'd expected; our rightful fear of most meat, and the meat we need not be scared of; and whether America has many small food movements, or one big food movement.
Sun, 2 December 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in the basement of Portland's Hollywood Theatre with Dan Halsted, head programmer there and founder of the 35mm Shaolin Archive. They discuss fake Bruce Lee films; his adventure of rescuing classic kung-fu film prints, including gems like The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and The Boxer's Omen from a shuttered, junkie-surrounded theater in Vancouver; his youth in a distant Oregon town with 600 people, his move to Portland, and his discovery of kung-fu cinema; how much more kung-fu movies offer than the fighting; the advantageous openmindedness of Portland filmgoing culture; exploitation films and Quentin Tarantino's high-profile love thereof; how different cities react to kung-fu movies, like the robust Chinese turnout in San Francisco or the disappointing attendance in St. Louis; kung-fu movies as a gateway to Chinese culture; 36 Chamber of Shaolin as a gateway to kung-fu movies; the evaporation of celluloid film, and the apparently dramatic shift in the way those under age twenty experience cinema; the various meanings of terms like "exploitation" and "grindhouse," and how the attendant concepts cannot be separated from the seventies, a time when Hollywood acted serious and independent film acted frivolous; what Portland's smallness affords a film programmer; why audiences sometimes prefer watching a beaten-up print to a pristine one; how Portland has successfully integrated food and alcohol with filmgoing; his experience getting tased, and how the Portland police force, known for its own aggression, tried to use kung-fu movies against him in court; and his never-ending task of pushing outward the limits of local film taste.
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