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Los Angeles Review of Books


Magical Maps and Island Utopias: On G. Willow Wilson’s “The Bird King”

G. WILLOW WILSON’S latest novel, The Bird King, may be set in 15th-century Spain during the collapse of the last sultanate, but it is in reality a book that seeks to rise above place and time. Alternative communities, magical maps, religious dogma, the Inquisition — these major themes drive the narrative forward toward an unmistakably […]

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(Un)happy Partners: On Jazz and Independent Film

IN BASIL DEARDEN’S 1962 FILM All Night Long, a husband and wife celebrate their first wedding anniversary. The husband is black. The wife is white. Both are American jazz musicians living in London. The couple arrives at a surprise party hosted by a friend at his spacious loft on the south bank of the Thames. […]

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Keep Even Man Where He Belongs

IN 1986, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote a short, influential essay titled “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.” In it, she introduced the anthropologist Elizabeth Fisher’s insight that “the first cultural device was probably a recipient,” such as a pouch, net, or bag, rather than some sort of implement of violence (i.e., the spear). Fisher’s […]

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Among the Believers: Ammon Bundy and America’s Armed Libertarian Right-Wing

Subscribe on iTunes | Spotify | SoundCloud | One of the most pressing issues facing American society is the rise of a radical anti-government right wing movement over the past few decades; and now, in particular, its relationship to President Trump. Author Anthony McCann goes right to heart of this movement in his new book […]

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The Passing of Time: On Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s and Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard”

THE PASSING OF AN AGE is an event so vast it can’t be viewed at once, or even at all from where you sit. It exists retrospectively. It may be found in the pages of a book or during moments of a movie. Like a ghost in reverse, the whisper of an unseen presence, only […]

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Comprehension Way Ahead of Speech: On Renato Rosaldo’s “The Chasers”

IT OCCURS TO ME that my memories of high school are only a story I tell myself. A long-winded narrative of angst — too much black, trip pants and chains, backstage cigarettes, young boys with hair gelled into mohawks, daydreams about becoming a writer. My high school reunion is this Saturday, and I’m nervous. I […]

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Benjamin Moser and the Smallest Woman in the World

I FIRST MET Benjamin Moser nearly 15 years ago at Denise Milfont’s house in Rio de Janeiro. Denise, a beloved actress and linchpin of arts and culture in Rio, said to me, “You have to meet Benjamin. He’s writing about Clarice.” She introduced me as “Magdalena, who writes about Elizabeth Bishop.” Bishop, one of Lispector’s […]

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Toward a Useful Melancholy: On Howard Norman’s Ghost Stories

IN AUGUST 1977, the novelist Howard Norman traveled to Churchill, Canada, a small town on the western edge of the Hudson Bay in Manitoba. He’d been employed by a Toronto museum to visit with a cantankerous resident there named Mark and transcribe his folk tales, nearly all of which described the calamities that befell Noah […]

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Johnson and Company

THE LITERARY CLUB, often called simply the Club, was founded in London in 1764 by Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and seven other luminaries, including Edmund Burke and Oliver Goldsmith. Later, the names of James Boswell, David Garrick, Edward Gibbon, and Adam Smith were added to the rolls. Their conversations must have been brilliant; however, in […]

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Artful Embroidery: Jo Giese’s “Never Sit If You Can Dance”

JO GIESE IS a refreshing inspiration for grown-up women who are not done yet. I look at her picture: beaming smile, long golden hair. She’s wearing the red-rimmed Annie Hall glasses we wore in the ’60s, showing up and showing off, our glee and independence unfettered. I’ve noticed, when I’m working with a group of […]

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