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May 1, 2005 - Deja vu and existentialism in Westwood

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Book Wrangler

May 2, 2005

By Bob Patterson


Attending the Los Angeles Festival of Books has become an annual tradition for the Book Wrangler and this year in addition to the usual items that were part of the routine, we learned that Steve Almond, author of The Evil B. B. Chow was going to be doing a signing for the folks at the Book Soup display, so we scheduled a visit to see him.


Since, in the past, we had written a book review that he didn’t like, we weren’t too sure how the meeting would go.  Heck, if he really didn’t like it and decked me, that would bring lots of publicity for his book and my reviewing skills, so we walked up to him, stuck out our hand and re-introduced ourselves. 


We learned that one of Almond’s (many) notable achievements was an article about bad reviews.   Isn’t there a bit in How To Win Friends and Influence People that advises folks who are handed a lemon, that they should make lemonade and sell it?  Well, Almond must have read that book because that’s what he did.


Writing a review for someone who is a friend of a friend or relative is a dicey business and we’ll have to keep that lesson in mind when we write the review of Jack Dann’s The Rebel, which is a fictional account of what it would have been like if James Dean had lived through the auto accident of September 30, 1955, because if we good again, we might offend a mutual friend.


Andrea Peters, whom we met at the Mystery Book Store in Westwood, the night before the Festival opened, has done something that everyone advised him not to do.  The conventional wisdom in the publishing industry is that an author must never release two books simultaneously.  Peters is a rookie novelist who has chosen to make his debut with the publication of two mysteries, Four Crows and I’m Sorr … Love, Anne, concurrently.  He reports that not only are both selling well, but the daring opening gambit is generating publicity because when anyone does what isn’t/hasn’t/can’t be done, that’s news.


We took a picture of Craig at Vagabond Books because that’s part of our Book Festival tradition.


We went to the exhibit table for the Santa Monica Press, as we do every year, and learned that this year’s most coveted item (I’ll have to send for a review copy) being offered by them is Elvis Presley Passed Here by Chris Eping.  This new volume is the latest in the series of books that catalogue locations where the most significant (it must be true if it says so in a press release) events in American popular culture took place.  Such as?  The park in Los Angeles where Elvis and his entourage used to play touch football?  Stuff like that.


This year Santa Monica Press is also publishing Atomic Wedgies, Wet Willies & Other Acts of Roguery by Greg Ananbaum and Dan Martin.  When was the last time you delivered a noogie to your brother? 


We’ll send for a review copy of French for Le Snob: Adding Panache to your Everyday Conversations by Yvette Reche to give to the beloved editor and publisher of Just Above Sunset online magazine because he’d love it, n’est-ce pas?


We also learned that L. A. Noir - The City as Character by Alan Silver and James Ursini will be published later this year.  It is unfortunate that it will not be available sooner because the Film Noir Film Festival in Palm Springs (called Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler) will be held June 3-5 this year.


Ever notice how all the stories at Halloween are about haunted houses?  Nature lovers never get to share in the ghoulish fun.  That will change when folks see Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks by Andrea Lankford.  Terrific!  Now, if I go for a walk in the woods I have to worry about bears and ghosts?  Yikes!  Next thing you know there will be haunted parking spaces.


One of the new things exhibits we enjoyed greatly this year at the Festival of Books was the display by Tachen Books.  This German publisher is expanding into the USA with many of the books we’d like to buy.  If we ever win the California lottery, we will buy a big house and make one room the Tachen Library Room and start to fill it up with all their books.  Many of their books are about art, pop culture, or kinky stuff.  Until we win that lottery we will have to be content with browsing through their Summer catalogue. 


While attending the Festival and assorted related events we were reminded that the Mystery Writers of America has a Southern California branch and we should remind our LA based readers of that fact.


We don’t have cable TV but we did learn that we can find out just what we are missing by checking in with their website.  That makes us wonder if they have/need a book columnist?


We missed out on one part of our annual Book Festival inspection tour because we missed our chance to speak with Mark Haskell Smith, and find out about Delicious which has just been published. 


Does the fact that we go to the L. A. Festival of Books every year and do just about the same thing while there, mean we are in a rut?  Maybe it’s time to think of doing a column about a book reviewer taking a look at the annual 24 hour endurance race at Le Mans.  If we hurry we may be able to get a press pass and attend this year’s competition.  There seems to be a great many books available about cars and racing, so why not cover Le Mans, eh?  Stay tuned for further developments in future installments of this weekly feature in Just Above Sunset online magazine. 


In Lyrical and Critical Essays (Edited by Philip Thody and translated by Ellen Conroy Kennedy) Albert Camus wrote (on page 200 in the Vintage book paperback edition):  “Similarly, the reflections on time, represented in an old woman trotting aimlessly along a narrow street, are, taken in isolation, among the most telling illustrations of the philosophy of anguish as summarized in the thought of Kierkegaard, Chestov, Jaspers, or Heidegger.”  So when you read a novel go slowly or else you might miss the existentialist subtext.


In the Peanuts comic strip in the Los Angeles Times, Friday, April 29, 2005, even Marcie waxes philosophical in an existential manner when she says to Peppermint Patty: “We wonder why we were put her on this earth...”


If an old woman trotting down a narrow street is profound, just think how life affirming it must be to go down the Mulsanne strait at over 200 mph.


Now, if the disk jockey will play the sound track album from A Man and A Woman, we’ll have the pit crew put on the sunshine tires and we’ll zoom out of here at high speed.  Come back again next time.  Until then, burn rubber and have a checkered flag type week.




Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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Paris readers add nine hours....