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    Friday
    Jan202017

    Wayne Barrett, The Best Reporter I Ever Knew

    THE NEW REPUBLIC - 20 JANUARY 2017

     My first day working for Wayne Barrett in the fall of 2004, I was one of six terrified interns, all of us sitting in a windowless room at The Village Voice, listening to a man in Brooklyn barking orders over a speakerphone. I was somehow nominated the stenographer and tapped furious notes—pausing to stare at the others in bafflement—as this loud and blunt man, Wayne Barrett, rattled off assignments.

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    Sunday
    Oct162016

    Loss haunts Rabih Alameddine's new novel, 'Angel of History'

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 16 OCTOBER 2016

    A man awaits his fate at a San Francisco psychiatric hospital. His partner is dead. Nearly an entire generation is gone. But not all is lost for our hero, Jacob, born Ya’qub; he is the product of a brief tryst between a powerful man in Beirut and a woman from Yemen who later takes her gifted son to live in a Cairo whorehouse to thrive under the care of a voluptuous auntie named Badeea. Back in Lebanon, more or less ignored by his father, he’s so savagely beaten by bigger boys at a Catholic orphanage that his battered body must be sent to Sweden. In San Francisco, years later, he’s an Arab male and a homosexual and one of the last of his kind — everyone else felled either by the great calamity of AIDS or the furious meat grinder that is life as an Arab. Oh, and he talks regularly with Satan. And the Devil.

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    Thursday
    Jul142016

    Jonah Lehrer returns with 'A Book About Love.' Can it rescue his reputation?

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 14 JULY 2016

    What do we want from the disgraced among us? Atonement, or at least an accounting, and perhaps some sense they’ve learned from their mistakes. No meticulous mea culpa is on offer from Jonah Lehrer in “A Book About Love,” his first title since the last was hurriedly withdrawn. Instead of an apology, in a cunning move Lehrer has written a new book that purports to be about love — but is ultimately a reflection on the inevitability of failure.

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    Thursday
    Jun022016

    Bob Shacochis travels the world in 'Kingdoms in the Air,' but doesn't always enjoy it

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 2 JUNE 2016

    Over more than 30 years, Bob Shacochis has gained a reputation as a swashbuckling, fish-catching man’s man capable of a certain kind of rugged reportage for Outside, Harper’s and other magazines.

    Not as widely known as big-hearted Bill Bryson, wandering Paul Theroux or the ravenous Anthony Bourdain, longtime author Shacochis is something of a writer’s travel writer. He teaches at Florida State and has won awards for his fiction – “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul” won the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize — and so his latest book of essays, “Kingdoms in the Air,” could serve as a kind of career-defining collection of magazine writing from 1989 to today. It starts powerfully enough in Kathmandu in the spring of 2001.

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    Monday
    Mar072016

    Right by the beach, and the bus depot

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 6 MARCH 2016

    The house my wife found in Venice was close to the beach. It was also alarmingly close to Division Six: a 3.5-acre bus depot ringed by tall fencing and barbed wire. On the sidewalk out front, happy people walked by, carrying surfboards or shopping bags. Just as continuously, in and out of the depot, the variously numbered orange city buses lumbered and wheezed.

    I wanted the house, yet I did not want the house. And then it didn't matter, because it was ours.

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    Thursday
    Feb182016

    In the age of Google Maps, why walk the 4,000 mile Nile River? Levison Wood's book explains

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 18 FEBRUARY 2016

    The Nile, from its disputed source, runs for as many as 4,000 miles. In recorded history, no man has ever walked its full course — and in April 2014 former British paratrooper Levison Wood set out to do just that.

    "To some, the very idea seems archaic," Wood writes of his journey, "and, in a world of Google Maps, where every valley and hillside has already been plotted, the traditional age of exploration is certainly gone. But exploration has always been about more than pure discovery or of being the first to do something."

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    Saturday
    Jan162016

    'The Narrow Door' is a stirring memoir of friends at their best and worst

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 15 JANUARY 2016

    "Our feet are warm," writes Paul Lisicky, describing an evening in Philadelphia with the novelist Denise Gess. "Our faces shine. The room is getting dark, the night coming a little sooner these days. Should I turn on a lamp?"

    But no light can fix the darkness in Philadelphia. Gess, the oldest and dearest of Lisicky's friends, is sick.

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    Sunday
    Dec272015

    Stealing a few shady hours in an offramp's not-park

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 27 DECEMBER 2015

    The other morning, I needed to get some reading done for work. I could've driven to my office. Or sat on a bench at the beach. Or taken the Big Blue Bus to Powell Library at UCLA, where I teach. What I did instead was set up a folding chair next to the freeway.

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    Monday
    Dec212015

    Self and concept collide in experimental collection 'When the Sick Rule the World'

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 27 DECEMBER 2015

    Stunned, the animals obey." This is an early line from "Whistle While You Dixie," the opening piece in Dodie Bellamy's "When the Sick Rule the World." It's emblematic of Bellamy's ability to overturn expectations with language that is by turns hilarious and sometimes almost cruel.

    In Bellamy's view, the animals in the animated film "Snow White" do as the title character bids but incorrectly: "Even though Disney has given some of the animals opposable thumbs," she writes, "… [a] deer licks dinner plates, and a squirrel dries them with its whirling tail. … [T]he Seven Dwarfs are real slobs."

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    Friday
    Oct162015

    Against Travel

    THE NORMAL SCHOOL - 15 OCTOBER 2015

    So deep was my sleep on a recent flight from Moscow to L.A.— a complete darkness, as if I was where I should be—and yet when I opened my eyes, seeing instead the hard light of a plane and not that place I suppose I hoped I had finally found, I clenched my teeth, it having become clear yet again that we were neither here nor there, and it was with a bit of anger, some disappointment, and not a little bit of regret that I found myself thinking again about the Rome of a day before as much as I was anticipating the heat of the California I’d see tomorrow, all the while attempting to forget a Phnom Penh that had started it all, not to mention the various cities in between that my wife and I had tried and failed over 15 years of roaming—this long and more or less continuous effort to make some place the place.

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    Friday
    Jul242015

    Letter of Recommendation: New Balance 990s

    THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE - 23 JULY 2015

    The first time I even considered buying a pair of New Balances, I was 27, bronzed and lean, standing in a frigid sporting-goods store in Biloxi, Miss., having walked there from New York. The year was 2007. Four months earlier, I had experienced that spiritual crisis stereotypical of young people — the one in which you can’t seem to square the scope of your ambitions with the limits of your daily life, which in my case was spent in a Midtown Manhattan cubicle. So I packed a bag and said goodbye to everyone I loved, including my wife, who was ecstatic to see me go.

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    Friday
    Jun122015

    I WALKED FROM MARINA DEL REY TO MALIBU — AND IT WAS A LOT LIKE BEIRUT

    LA WEEKLY - 11 JUNE 2015

    After five years in the Middle East, my wife, daughter and I moved last year to Los Angeles, which turned out to have more in common with Beirut or Baghdad than I might have imagined. The specifics here were, of course, different — malnourished sea lions, homelessness, gentrification, tourism, nimbyism — but the manner by which I began to grasp them was similar. To find out more about where I lived and why it felt so insane, I decided, as I'd done many times (from Sanaa to Beirut, Baghdad to Doha), to take a long walk, in this case from Marina del Rey to Pacific Palisades.

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    Tuesday
    Jun092015

    THE TRUE FICTIONS OF JOAN DIDION: REVISITING 'MIAMI' AND 'PLAY IT AS IT LAYS'

    LITHUB - 8 JUNE 2015

    On the 45th anniversary of Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, Nathan Deuel reexamines that novel alongside her eponymous non-fiction portrait of Miami.

    I first read Miami as a junior at Brown, in a class about the Cuban-American experience. I hated growing up in South Florida, feeling as I did that the place lacked history, or in any case I had never been given an adequate guide to make its history matter as much as the older, grander history up north or across the ocean.

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    Saturday
    Apr252015

    'Children of the Stone' a moving look at music's power in Palestine

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 24 APRIL 2015

     A shipping container bound for Palestine holds cargo worth half a million dollars — not military hardware or food aid but musical instruments. This is the gripping material of Sandy Tolan's moving and diligently told new book, "Children of the Stone." Whereas his 2006 book, "The Lemon Tree," told the story of Israel and Palestine through a single fruit tree and the way it brought together two families, in this new book, Tolan methodically retraces a Palestinian boy's journey from a refugee camp to Europe and finally back to Palestine, where he becomes head of a network of musical conservatories in areas bordered by Israel.

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    Thursday
    Apr232015

    Where We Used to Live

    THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE - 22 APRIL 2015

    My wife and I lived in a tiny co-op here for years, then we moved to the Middle East. My dad died and Kelly moved to Iraq and then we tried to make it work in Beirut. On leave one winter, I decided to walk from Eldridge Street all the way to the Rockaways. It was snowing and sleeting. I drank a lot of coffee. What death hadn't ruined, the hurricane had taken care of. I've tried to figure out how to come back to New York. Still looking for a way. But not that hard.

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    Wednesday
    Apr082015

    Party Bus

    THE BUTTER - 7 APRIL 2015

    We live in the future, so I’m on a bus in Los Angeles and log onto Twitter to write a note to the author of a book I’m reading: “Loving yr novel. Managing to focus on its pages during a manic bus ride to Venice Beach, during which a drunk guy fell on me”

    “Thank you so much,” writes the author, Rabih Alamaddine. “Haven’t had a drunk guy fall on me in ages!”

    This is a story about a bus ride on a Saturday night just before sundown. Things get intense. The bus to Venice Beach is no joke. Neither is life, writing, or a good book.

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    Saturday
    Mar072015

    Mark Doten's 'The Infernal' a darkly twisted take on Iraq war

    THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - 6 MARCH 2015

    We've watched films portraying and critiquing 9/11. We've read sober nonfiction books chronicling it and thoughtful fiction by soldiers — some with MFAs — who are beginning to process what they saw there. But what we haven't read is anything quite like "The Infernal," Mark Doten's deliriously demented new novel.

    A dark and insane fantasy about the players large and small who populated our post-9/11 landscape, it's not just the book we've maybe wanted but possibly the book we've needed — a strange lens to help us understand who we were, what we've done and who we may yet become.

    The satirical novel unfolds over dozens of classified records released from a network called Memex. Passages are interrupted by dense and frightening lines of code: "I've brought my understanding to this porta-potty town, Condi," writes L. Paul Bremer, "and with that understanding I will reverse Jay [Garner]'s damage, the corrosive effect of the khaki and collared regime, work though the devastation, the mischief, undo and soothe it, usher in a new era in the Green zone, thus in Baghdad, thus Iraq, thus the region and worl LKEKE LL035COS2BPAL TLHK9 FQ XGPOE."

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    Friday
    Feb272015

    Lines From The New Yorker's 3.5-Star Yelp Listing

    THE AWL - 26 FEBRUARY 2015

    “I will never read The New Yorker again.”

    “NYC bores nowadays.”

    “Thank you New Yorker for helping me kill time the other day.”

    “I had lost interests in their article qualities so I stopped subscribing paper version a year ago. However I would like to have a free New Yorker logo tote so I subscribed digital version…Today In receiving this tote I feel not only disappointed but also cheapened myself.”

    “This is a great magazine to subscribe to if you’re too busy to find a better one.”

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    Saturday
    Feb212015

    Amazed and Confused: My Night at the Movies

    PACIFIC STANDARD - 20 FEBRUARY 2015

    For part of my 20s, I worked as a journalist in New York, writing and editing news, and shepherding various forms of what I thought were important stories from pitch to completion. Then, in 2008, my wife set out to work full-time as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and I tagged along. Over the next five years, I watched her covering difficult stories: the growth of al-Qaeda in Yemen, the supposed wind-down of our war in Iraq, the failed revolutions in Bahrain and Syria. Faced with stories more urgent, perhaps, than the ones I’d known in New York, I became convinced that what I thought I knew about how cities functioned and how people ought to act with each other was untrue or at least incomplete and probably down-right naïve. In my new life, while my wife roamed the globe, I was meanwhile often a single parent, and with a great deal of effort I was attempting to find meaning in this new role. So I wrote personal essays. Some of them were uncertain, others emotional, and most of them raw and strange and inconclusive.

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    Thursday
    Jan292015

    The Greatest Rock Show I'd Ever Seen

    PACIFIC STANDARD - 28 JANUARY 2015

    At 16 years old, I interviewed Ian MacKaye.

    Standing in a weird sort-of tiki hut behind a rock club in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on April 2, 1996, I stubbed out an unfiltered Camel and asked strange, sometimes stupid questions to this punk rock iconoclast, the lead singer of post-hardcore band Fugazi.

    I was talking to the man who founded enormously influential Dischord Records, who created (and later disbanded) hardcore punk legends Minor Threat, who then somehow brought out another great band in Fugazi. With a hooded sweatshirt and combat boots, a dedication to veganism and an élan for eschewing drugs and alcohol, this guy could count himself among the godfathers of American punk rock. And all I wanted to know is whether he might equate the health risks of caramel with the supposed evils of eating meat.

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