Literary Review

Selling Out and Buying In: The Rise of Fashionista Feminism

Lipstick JungleSex and the City happened the way most pop trends do: slowly at first, and then all at once. One day, Sarah Jessica Parker was just another face on a magazine cover: flat, glossy, and irrelevant, connected in some obscure way to Kim Cattrall (known best – to me, anyway – for her achievements in films such as Baby Geniuses and Mannequin). Then, before you could say “DVD player,” Sex was on every TV in the tri-state area.

The show had a certain soothing quality, like a handful of tranquilizers washed down with champagne: Unmarried women, who (as the show never ceased to remind us) had traditionally been portrayed as sexless and sad, were instead painted as the belles of an endless ball. Read more »


Tom SharpeIn case you hadn't heard, Porterhouse is the name of the most notoriously lax, gut, gout-inducing college in Cambridge University. The Porter of Porterhouse is a thick-skinned, pipe-chewing, half-simian thug named Skullion. And Porterhouse Blue is not an athletic team or the college colors, but is instead a description of the distinctive malady induced by Porterhouse's most notable feature oh these past five centuries or so, its rich repasts and its over-stuffed wine cellar -- in short, complete physio-psychic toxic shock. Welcome to Porterhouse Blue.

If there were any question that we are in Tom Sharpe country, consider just one sentence from the opening of this remarkable satire: "An evening to remember Master," said the Senior Tutor sebaceously" Read more »

Pop Goes the Short Story

First & FifteenthFigures vary, but experts (those guys) contend that we are barraged with something on the order of 6,000 signs, messages, and missives a day. The short, punchy, condensed, in-your-face verbal and visual assault that surrounds us beats a non-stop background to our modern urban consciousness, just as twittering birds and babbling brooks once inspired Wordsworth and Longfellow. Artist/writer Steve Powers has noticed our signboard cacophony, and in his surprising, exciting, and totally original new "book," First & Fifteenth, he mines the lingua franca of our cultural garbage to create a completely wonderful reading/seeing/feeling book, although I use the word "book" cautiously. Read more »

Wonderland The Beautiful

WonderlandIn case you hadn't noticed, the world itself is reading like a bad Silver Surfer comic book these days. Storms rage, pestilence brews, celebrities change religions like they used to change agents, a team from Chicago - CHICAGO!!! - is in the World Series. (Not that team, the other team - but still!) All that's missing is a superhero to make it all right.

Author and global do-gooder (he helps people write in Missoula and helps people get healthy in Honduras) David Allan Cates has noticed - and he came up with a short, powerful, delightful "Saga" that, while it's not a comic book, is the next best thing - a hilarious, upsetting, uplifting, upbraiding story that's a perfect combination of Vonnegut, Voltaire, and Seinfeld. Read more »

Tasty Frieze

FriezeThe literary genre known as narrative non-fiction is all the rage today. Bookstores -- from Barnes and Borders to that place with the cat in window and the door that squeaks out a perfect E-flat -- are stocked to the gills with tomes wherein writers confess, profess, regress, digest, and digress -- all starring the character known as me, myself and I. Even the editor of The New York Times Book Review has opined that we seem to be living in a non-fiction "moment." Having said that, the drive for narrative is so strong, so up to the minute -- whether it's Augusten Burroughs's family moving all their furniture out onto the front lawn or it's the latest "...he/she was an abused child of a drug-loving Hollywood movie star/Supreme Court justice/Senator/news anchor," it seems like these kinds of stories were made for our time. Read more »


BonerI've got a "hard-on" for Seth Greenland's debut novel, The Bones. Although I've got a couple of bones to pick with it -- oh, the hell with my insipid punning. If you really want to delve into a funny one -- one that takes you deep into the heart of sunniness known as Brentwood, the land of cosmetic surgery and people who fly their private jets to Save the Rain Forest benefits, the land of hard-bitten ex-comics who loathe themselves just slightly more than they loathe the rest of us, well, Greenland has it nailed. (Ooops, sorry.) I just finished reading a bunch of Evelyn Waugh -- maybe I'll write about that later -- and I am happy to report that, in a very real way, Greenland does a Waugh to L.A. And that is good. Very good. Read more »

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