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A confused identity, a mother’s quest: writer Brando Skyhorse delves into his difficult childhood in a new memoir

The writer Brando Skyhorse with one of his fathers, Frank

If you’re looking for a page-turning summer read, and if you love personal stories that make your own crazy family seem like “Leave it to Beaver,” consider Brando Skyhorse’s new memoir, “Take This Man.”
Much of the action is set on Portia Street in Echo Park, where Skyhorse grew up with his mother, his grandmother, and a rotating cast of potential fathers.  (His biological dad left …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews »

An astronaut’s biography, and a musician’s novel

Landing June 3rd in bookstores

The Echo may not seem a place for a book party, much less a pajama party, but last night it served as both those things.  Writer Willy Vlautin came to town from Portland to launch his fourth novel, The Free, and attendees were encouraged to wear their PJ’s and bring their pillows.  The event was hosted by Chuck Palahniuk of Fight Club fame, and …

Arts & Culture, Featured, News, Sports »

In the era before the NBA, the NFL, and TV, this sport captivated America


NBA, NFL, MLB, ESPN: Back before an alphabet soup of acronyms captivated the hearts and minds of the American public, entertainment-starved citizens were transfixed by a spectator sport that no longer exists: Pedestrianism.
As odd as it may sound today, in the mid-19th-century, watching people walk, competitively, provided hours of fun for throngs of people. Plus, it made some of those who competed in the sport …

Arts & Culture »

Forget Oscar: We want books!


Everyone knows that when you win an Academy Award, you get a shiny gold statue plus instant (if fleeting) additional fame and fawning attention. So what happens if you win a big prize in the literary world? If, say, on March 13th, you get the nod from the prestigious National Book Critics Circle, you get to… go to a party!
For authors, making the short …

Arts & Culture, Featured »

Fame, celebrity, reality TV, bestsellers, Twitter-obsessed book bloggers, and really fantastic abs

The author in our studios

Los Angeles writer Mark Haskell Smith’s new book, “Raw: A Love Story,” is laugh-out-loud funny–because it’s so right-on about our celebrity-obsessed culture, it hurts.
If it irks you that when the Duck Dynasty guys, say, or actor James Franco attach their names to books they zoom to the top of bestseller lists while “real” writers struggle to get published, this novel is for you.
Smith deftly lampoons …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews, News »

Literary tattoos and diving beyond the bestsellers: What’s in Carolyn Kellogg’s book bag?

Carolyn, and her literary tattoo

For her job at the LA Times, Carolyn Kellogg writes about all things having to do with books and publishing. (Full disclosure: We were long-ago cubemates at Marketplace, before we each reincarnated ourselves various times.)
We asked her to wade through all the inevitable hype and such about the fall blockbuster books…to find some gems we’d likely never hear about it.  So she showed up …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Headline, Interviews, News »

At 100, Teddy Getty Gaston relives life with fabled billionaire

Teddy Getty Gaston at KCRW.

Teddy Getty Gaston is 100.  She started shopping a book at age 98 because she figured her story might “help other women,”  and her opus, “Alone Together: My Life with J. Paul Getty” was just released last week.
Gaston was the fifth wife of J. Paul Getty, who struck oil deals,  laid the infrastructure for gas stations and was one of the first people ever …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Headline, Interviews »

What keeps a bookstore alive for 60 years?


There is nothing cookie-cutter or corporate about Caravan Book Store on Grand Avenue downtown. “Avant Garde, First Edition, Poetry,” the window declares in big gold letters.
As a kid, bookseller Leonard Bernstein swept the floors of his parents’ shop when it was located a block away on what was then called “bookseller’s row”. He’s been continuing the tradition ever since. Caravan is marking the start of …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews, News, Sonic Trace »

A big weekend for Spanish literature in Los Angeles

Lea LA is this weekend.

L.A. is a profoundly Latin American city, with countless historical and cultural ties to the Spanish-speaking world. Those ties include a common language. Spanish is spoken by over 40 percent of L.A. residents, making it the second-most spoken language in L.A. after English.
Remember, even saying the words “Los Angeles” (or if you want to get fancy and historical about it, El Pueblo de Nuestra …

Arts & Culture, Education, Issues, Politics, Race for Mayor, Today's News »

Today’s News: Bell jury called back to court; Riordan backs Greuel; ‘Tonight Show’ moves


Jury duty. The jury in the Bell corruption trial isn’t done yet. Judge Kathleen Kennedy has instructed the panel to return to court this morning and jurors could be forced to continue deliberating on dozens of charges that remain unresolved. Five of six former city council members were found guilty yesterday of stealing from the working class city. But the jury also acquitted them …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews, News »

On Scientology and Hollywood…


KCRW’s Kim Masters recently sat down with author Lawrence Wright to talk about his new book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.  He described the leader of the church, L. Ron Hubbard, this way:
“He was a spellbinding character, he had a special talent for bringing young people in particular under his spell. And you know, they had a narrative of his own life, …

Arts & Culture, Headline, News »

One Thing: Books


 We asked eleven of our sharpest local observers what they thought were the most important stories and trends of the year. From politics and music to faith, literature and film, they weigh in on the one thing that shaped 2012
Author Hector Tobar reflects on the books that made an impact on him in 2012. One is a story of war, and the other is …

Arts & Culture, News »

Michael Connelly on ‘The Black Box’

One of Los Angeles’ cultural exports has been its crime fiction, and the latest to wear the Raymond Chandler mantle is Michael Connelly, writer of 25 best-selling novels, 18 of them featuring his tenacious homicide detective Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch. Now Connelly has published his latest book, The Black Box, which takes Bosch back to the LA riots in 1992.
Below, Michael Connelly talks to Warren Olney …

Arts & Culture, Headline, News »

Remembering Gore Vidal, writer and playwright 1925 – 2012

Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal author and playwright died Tuesday at his Hollywood Hills home from complications due to pneumonia. Bookworm host Michael Silverblatt writes:
When I learned of the death of Gore Vidal last night, the painful memories that flooded me were immediate, but there was also the memory of affection and humor. I saw myself twenty years ago, a frantic and terrified young interviewer pacing awkwardly in …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Headline, News, Summer »

Summer Reading: Recommendations from KCRW listeners

By jm3 via Flickr

It’s summer in Los Angeles. And while some might be excited about the L.A. Film Festival or hitting the beach, many are just eager to have some extra time to read a good book. At least many of our readers are. We got  summer reading recommendations from indie book store owners, and several readers posted suggestions of books old and new on our Facebook page …

Arts & Culture, Featured, News »

Remembering Ray Bradbury: ‘The essence of life is love’


Ray Bradbury died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91. The science fiction author, known for “The Martian Chronicles,” “Fahrenheit 451″ and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” wrote  a thousand words a day and published late into his life, authoring more than 27 novels and collections, and more than 600 short stories. The New York Times writes:
In 1934 the family moved to Los Angeles, …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Headline, Interviews, News, Summer »

Summer reading recommendations from indie bookstore owners

By jm3 via Flickr

School’s out, the sun is shining, and you need that perfect book to take to the beach. KCRW talked to indie bookstore owners around Los Angeles about some of their favorites for this summer. If you’re looking for some inspiration, visit one of the stores, which we’ve mapped for you below.
Alison Reede of Diesel Books recommended “A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless …

Arts & Culture, Environment, Featured, Interviews, News »

‘People’s Guide to Los Angeles’ goes beyond Rodeo Drive

842 South Broadway, Los Angeles The Orpheum Theater and the downtown neighborhood around it were the sites of the Zoot Suit Riots, on-going street brawls that pitted Mexican American youth against military personnel and white civilians in May and June of 1943

Hollywood Boulevard. Venice Beach. Disney Hall. The La Brea Tar Pits. Universal Studios. Rodeo Drive. What do they all have in common? They’re, of course, all popular local tourist destinations that always get star billing in guide books about L.A.
But there’s a new Southern California guide book out that takes you to places way off the beaten path and introduces you to little known …

Arts & Culture, Headline, LA Noir »

A literary roadmap of Los Angeles


Los Angeles is often denigrated as shallow and superficial, despite its long history of great literary accomplishments. The city has produced Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion, Charles Bukowski, Walter Mosley, and countless others. It’s also the biggest book  market in North America.
So, readers of Los Angeles, rejoice! Some local bibliophiles have produced a new 18″ x 24″ fold-out map that includes all of the literary …

Arts & Culture, Featured, Interviews, LA Noir »

Los Angeles Review of Books and Tom Lutz on ‘All Things Considered’


Monday, we debuted a new contributor on All Things Considered: Tom Lutz, editor and founder of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He’s also an author in his own right, and an instructor of writing at UC-Riverside, which has incubated this new, digital project (as newspapers cut back on their reviews of books, Lutz figured, why not create a new way to spotlight the …

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