Published on Mon, Feb 18, 2019
By: Doug Stokes
You know about really good LA bagels, right? You know where you can get them and, and better yet, you know to the nearest quarter-hour what time certain batches of them (like those beautifully aromatic Bialys) come out of the ovens at those places.
A Casual Anthology
Volumes 1 and 2
And … back to our bagel analogy … You know how they work in your mouth, right? Crisp, chewy, savory … still warm and (…at least one) eaten right out of the bag (with no time wasted slicing it apart for a smear) while still parked in the store’s parking lot … right?
Yeah, exactly … Honestly nothing quite like it. Worth the damn drive over (with traffic both ways) but really worth it.
I got (and hope to get more of) that same sort of wonderfully chewy* feeling reading in pair of books that (quite appropriately for here, given their title) came my way just the other day … I think that many of our readers might well want to take an afternoon off for a long look.
In operation “PAPERBACK LA” is not the story of some booze-soaked LA sleuth (or slut for that matter) but a writing anthology series that effortlessly defies categorization, and which shines a light in the general direction of Los Angeles writing and the thoughtful, intelligent, pungent, artistic, popular, unknown, well-known, and generally interesting things, people, places, foibles, strengths, predilections, stray animals, and show runners that are part of the warp and weft of here.
If you must know, an “anthology” is a nice word for a collection of thoughts, engrams, ideas, and such that may or may not (mostly “may” of course) have a whole lot to do with a certain subject (in this case a fairly broad one: “LA”).
And then there’s that laid back “Casual” that’s used to modify the “A” word slyly slipped in the under main title in this series of. As you must know, that relaxed-fit modifier can be just as vague (or even vaguer**) as it wants to be. That works well here.
… Here it means some of the most interesting and thoughtful writing going around with only one idea to bind the efforts: which is, that they somehow, someway relate to LA, which is one big old mother of a target and which, here in the first two books in this series, for me anyway, is hit nicely and often.
Author, editor, recipe writer/tester (a real job), publisher and (so it seems) “LA person” Susan LaTempa is the guarantor here … she’s the editor, and the fire in the belly of this series. Readers will here surely get it that her vision is a shared one. Which means that, if and when her compatriots start throwing open houses, I wanna be at one.
Being as how this flash review is here seen on a website with the semi-epithet “car” in the title; I’ll quickly point out that there are stories in “PAPERBACK LA” (some fables, some parables, some just straight-on) that do talk cars somewhere in the text, that many (not all, but more than a few) of the featured writers themselves employ the use of cars, and maybe (outside chance warning here) some even actually like cars. But then, any tales of this city that didn’t entail at least a few memos about our wheeled friends would likely be run out of town on a (light) rail anyway.
It’s subtle, understated, but there’s a fervor here that says something that sounds like “… Stuff (large and small) is happening here in LA and (because of where it’s happening) perhaps you might be interested” and then going on to say: “OK, sit a while, relax, read … maybe let what you read, read you right back”.
Many years ago folk singer/songwriter Phil Ochs who was not from around here (and who proved that to be a fact of life many times over) wrote a bitter song entitled, “The World Started in Eden and ended in Los Angeles”, here’s a verse:
“So this is where the Renaissance has led to, And we will be the only ones to know, So take a drive and breathe the air of ashes, That is, if you need a place to go, If you have to beg or steal or borrow, Welcome to Los Angeles, City of Tomorrow, City of Tomorrow, City of Tomorrow.” (copyright Universal Music Publishing Group)
Ochs was always more than just a bit pissed off at the nearest city, person, regime, country, body politic (hell, he was a folk singer and in direct competition with Bob Dylan, until he decided to check out on his own terms) and/or random politician. Los Angeles survived Ochs’ highly-vectored vision just as it has far bigger pains-in-the-asses, and PAPERBACK LA understands and is good with that.
So right here, and better than 700+ words into a “review”, I’ve not pulled a quote from one story, dropped a single line of poetry, told you that some very evocative photos appear in these book in addition to the words, or mentioned even one author’s name (famous or no) … So, what kind of a damn book review was this?
OK, well, in truth I’m out of space here … you’re going to need to find out for yourself here: www.paperbackla.com (take a deep breath).
I think that you’ll find that there’s an equal measure of fun and games, pathos, faith, hope, and speed-dating in the pages of “PAPERBACK LA” … all with that crisp, chewy, yeasty LA mouthfeel I started out yammering about in the first ‘graph way back when. There’s that along with what I see to be enough salient content to cause one to simply sit quietly and read without wondering if they were missing the first run of Birdbox on Netflix.
*not sure why I relate mouthfeel with the printed word… I’ll just stipulate to it here and roll on.
**ha! my spell check allowed vaguer (more vague).
REVIEW PART TWO: Here’s the very cool part about these LA Paperback notes on the big city: many of the people that are heard from on these pages are not regularly thought of as cutting-edge chroniclers of things in, about, and around LA (!). And that’s what truly adds flavor, texture and interest here. Understand … I’m not about to buy one of these volumes and send it to my Aunt Francis in Rochester for her to use as any sort of a spiritual or factual guidebook to this city.
This one, if not of entirely, is certainly for us here in LA. -DS
And … above and to the immediate left, please find the cover art for Book 3 in the PAPERBACK LA series. Hot off the press, we’ve not seen a copy of it as yet, but we fully expect the same kind of engaging theme music to be playing in the background when we do …