What I'm Reading and Other Random Things About Me Too

Categories: OC Bookly

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Not that anybody has asked lately (and why not, huh?) but it's summer, presumably a time which, with longer days, vacation (if you're lucky), time off from school or teaching or just plain stubborn insistence on some kind of autonomy you will want to exercise the imagination and engage in, not just the summer reading list-making game but, like this tough-looking literary customer, demand that people actually read a book at the beach, say, and not Decision Points by some ex-president or other which, I kid you not, I saw a guy straight out of central casting reading, not reading, reading very slowly on the sand in Laguna, in front of the upscale if silly-named Montage Hotel. I assumed he was a paying guest. I was an interloper, a citizen, a happy low-end beneficiary of Gov. Jerry Brown's first term and the California Coastal Commission's commitment to prohibiting private beaches and insisting that people read good, smart fiction and nonfiction and not made-up revisionist nonsense or at least be challenged when they appear to be reading same. Okay, I made that last part up, and resisted asking the fellow, well, what exactly? And where to start? Sheesh. There's an easy joke there, and maybe a smarter one, too. I'll bet Jerry Stahl, real writer, and lately sitting in for David Feldman at KPFK would've known what to do. 

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Songs of an OC Son: Remembering, Celebrating Robert Peters (1924-2014)

Categories: OC Bookly

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The death last week of poet and critic, memoirist, UC Irvine professor and sometime performance artist Robert Peters offers yet another moment of confounding if useless juxtapositions. The physically strong, robust specimen of all-American Midwestern vigor, the robust body and mind, the wit and hearty affections - for words, for people - had diminished, it seemed, if to perhaps all but Bob himself. He was deaf, his body falling apart yet Bob Peters seemed always...That's it.  Always, as in everpresent. He complained, gently, funnily, about his health in a poetic rant celebrating (!) his 84th brithday, but the mind and creative engagement persisted. My own sentence fragment, offered lamely, and in its complete incompleteness and open-ended appreciation is an impossible assessment, trying to be content with what stands as a very full life, as they say. Peters published dozens of books of poetry, and famously compiled his own take on contemporary poets in his multi-volume The Great American Bake-Off series, dressed up as Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, taught grads and undergrads Victorian lit and more at UCI, lived as an openly and proudly gay man with his adoring spouse the poet and writer Paul Trachtenberg in, of all places, a modest tract home in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, USA where, upon entering their home a visitor would immediately note and appreciate a complete copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and on a nearby wall a poster of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, dig it.

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Physican, Heal Thyself (or Dont'!): Kem Nunn's Chance

Categories: OC Bookly

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Chance means opportunity, too, as in the great one I had to interview a favorite author, Kem Nunn, one morning before he headed off to work writing scripts for Sons of Anarchy, his day job lately when not writing novels about the other kind of chance. Nunn's latest novel further establishes, as they say, his reputation as a prose stylist whose both sly and somehow genuine embrace of tough-guy existentialism, darkness, nature, a celebratory and yet cautiously discontented delight in details and surprise seems always to have layers and resonance. He produces great lines, to remind you that nothing is for keeps, even as you are convinced of the verity of place and experience. Yes, he gets tagged with the "noir" label, which one hopes is only handy shorthand toward spreading the word about the fiction of a son of Southern California whose previous books have done so much for our chancy region, from Tapping the Source, his classic so-called "surf noir" portrait of both then-dilapidated and sketchy old downtown Huntington Beach and the ghost-towny deserts east of here, with surfers, runaways, drug-gangster bikers and a missing sister detective story and a sympathetic hero who grows up fast. 

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Race to the Bottom of the Middle of Nowhere: Chip Lit & the Promise (Premise) of Commerce as Culture

Categories: OC Bookly

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Is the glass half full or half empty? This among other provocative inanities is a question meant to point us in the direction of some kind of weak contentedness and dumb finality, an assessment of argument by way of attitude ad hominem-style and, yes, offer a real discourse-stopper to boot. Being able to consider two contradictory ideas at once, nicknamed "negative capability," is an exercise of both intellectual vigor and, yes, freedom to think. Now let's turn that glass into a burrito or, as is happening over at the brand-new ad hoc Facebook page "Cultivating Invisibility: Chipotle's Missing Mexicans," the brown bag in which arrives the meal served at Chipotle's restaurant, the wildly successful if culinarily boring dining joint which has stirred that half-full and half-empty glass by way of somehow, inexplicably, not include Mexican or Chicano or Mexican-American or all or any of 'em (see what I did there, friends and amigos?) writers, not one, despite the place being named Chipotle's Mexican Grill, almost if not quite producing actual Mexican cuisine, two out of three words in its name being, well, pretty darn Mexican. 

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In Dreams Awake: Catching up with Springtime, Books and More

Categories: OC Bookly
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I've had occasion to rely, happily, on the guy with the crazy hairdo on top of his wonderful crazy head, memorialized at right. Not to mention Henry David Thoreau's funny beard and radical politics of liberation and ecological wisdom. First, I quoted him to my Composition students, as I did often in the Sociology class I team-taught for many years with people's lawyer and all-around activist-pal Bob Myers.  Indeed, "I am concerned to trace the effects of my allegiance," as should we all.  And, then, I heard myself repeating his perhaps more literary-appropriate but also kinda anarchist quote from "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" gently arguing that "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake," which has sort of been my experience of appreciating all kinds of challenges and triumphs, terrific writing and writers and comrades in the months of late April, very busy, and May, that favorite revolutionary and flowering and fecund springtime month of garlands and martyrs and dreams and, yes, fresh fava beans and new music and books, books, books, where the dreams are written for those that want to find them.  
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Scott Turow, Lawyer-Turned-Bestselling Author, Speaks to UC Irvine Law School Students Today

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UC Irvine law school students find out this evening what they should do with their post-lawyering days--you know, when they can really make the big bucks--as lawyer-turned-bestselling novelist Scott Turow (Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof) shares his secrets.

Unlike his adaptation fees from Hollywood, the event is free.

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The Flowering of Language: Spring, When a Middle-Aged Man's Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of Books

Categories: OC Bookly
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I've only just now enrolled late in the fan club - devoted cult readers, book clubbers and flower aficianados - lined up behind Vanessa Diffenbaugh's novel The Language of Flowers, thanks to Jill Patterson and the organizers of next Saturday's 8th annual Literary Orange festival. Flattered and proud to be invited to sit between two talented, smart, beautiful women and interrogate, celebrate and otherwise do my moderator best to share with attendees some joyful insights into two terrific novels in a panel titled, forthrightly, "Flowers, Bees, Words." Mr. Bib joins Diffenbaugh, the New York Times-bestselling author and OC's own Peggy Hesketh, best-telling author of an almost too-perfect companion book about our county, so that my blog post this weekend is an invitation to join the three of us and another couple of hundred literary types, and also a preview of sorts.  Indeed, Peggy Hesketh of Anaheim, California, USA has been lauded here at OC Bookly aplenty for her terrific roots novel Telling the Bees, so that another opportunity to share, this time with an audience of locals, seems just the right way to kick off the year's springtime literary festivities, this one the closest to home. 
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Where We Read Your Dreams: Listening to the Imagination on (Where Else?) KPFK

Categories: OC Bookly

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Recent especially terrific listening at the only really people-powered media out there inspires this morning's blog. Mr. Bib probably should have timed this celebration of So Cal Pacifica Radio KPFK 90.7 FM to appear during the recently concluded fund drive, but there's no reason you can't demonstrate your good taste, solidarity, stubborn insistence by going to the website and pledging now or mailing an old-fashioned check to the station at its Cahuenga Blvd West address. So much good and exceptional and vital and encouraging happens on the alternative air there, mostly absent any acknowledgement from the other media.  What is the sound of one's hands clapping?  Applause, but you'd never know it from the near black-out of the one media outlet which, because it cannot and will not and should not try to compete with the rest of the media should also celebrate once in a while, and brag on itself. Perhaps the announcement last week of Ralph Nader's new Saturday morning 11 a.m. program, with funnyman and smart political observer David Feldman --- and its debut yesterday --- will merit a big feature piece in the Los Angeles Times?  I can dream.  

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Train: Tom Zoellner Takes a Long Ride, Writes About It..and Shares a Slide Show, Too

Categories: OC Bookly

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Somebody's doing something very right over at Chapman University, where the faculty line-up of terrific teachers gets more and more impressive, and includes the author of a new book with appeal for sincere admirers of stylish prose and what they call general interest readers, as well as train fanatics, admirers of travel writing, history buffs and fans of its author, one of the nicest writers you will ever meet, or read. Tom Zoellner teaches at the little private liberal arts college in Orange, when he is not writing or researching his next project. I'm still disappointed that his previous offering, the urgently, provocatively, impossibly dead-on A Safeway in Arizona, a case study of the weird political and cultural behaviors and doomed public policy of one of our most charming, nuttiest Western states, didn't get more attention, by which I mean purchased by and read by and discussed by every elected official in the country. (I can dream.) The book should have been huge, required reading, but of course I am not in charge. Imagine, for instance, if the child of a wildly successful local minister, influential evangelical and presidential debate host took his own life using a handgun, this son of a famously purpose-driven conservative religious guy with a big soapbox. Instead of "forgiving" the kook who sold the gun to his suicide son, instead of talking about mental health "awareness," he might reasonably (in my own imagined universe) have organized political opposition from the big-screen mega-church pulpit to those true disciples of Satan, the National Rifle Association, pimps for weapons makers and all-around sadist-profiteers of misery.

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Science Fictions: Mormonist Lit and Scientology, too!

Categories: OC Bookly

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You need to know about what goes on in the head of your favorite OC Weekly literary arts blogger like you need a hole in your own head or one of these, an E-Meter. But you might want to know about how what is in Mr. Bib's noggin actually gets there, at least by way of tardy recommendations of a couple of terrific reads. This E-Meter "Mark Super VII Quantum"- for sale on E-Bay (!) as it happens - is a high-tech looking gizmo that measure galvanic skin response, which is basically how much you are sweating, which increases conductance of your skin, which is about as valuable as a mood ring. No, it's not much to begin with, but this baby is a far cry from crazy-as-a-loon sci-fi hack writer and all-around con man Lafayette Ronald Hubbard's original, a bit of mad genius gimcrackery just perfect for the perfect all-American fake religion meets Ponzi scheme, only mildly critiqued in Lawrence Wright's otherwise excellent nonfiction take-apart of the religion, its founder and the leadership of that criminal enterprise in Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.

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