East Hollywood: Memorial to Reason, by Harry Northup

Review by Toni Fuhrman

 

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Cahuenga Press, 2015

East Hollywood is a neighborhood of some 80,000 souls in central Los Angeles. It’s shaped like a rough-cut diamond, cut through the middle by Santa Monica Boulevard, edged (roughly) by the Hollywood Freeway (101), Western Avenue, Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, and Virgil Avenue. On its borders are Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Koreatown. Within its borders are Thai Town, Little Armenia, The Church of Scientology, Los Angeles City College (UCLA’s original campus), and a thriving Spanish-speaking population. From atop Mount Hollywood to the north, Griffith Observatory benignly stands sentry over all.

It is here, in this neighborhood, that Harry Northup lives, walks, and writes the poetry collected in East Hollywood: Memorial to Reason (Cahuenga Press, 2015). This is Northup’s eleventh book, and the voice we hear in the poems is exuberant, Whitmanesque.

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Just Kids by Patti Smith

Review by Jennifer Spiegel

Who isn’t listening to audiobooks these days? I was late, as I am to many trends, as I was with Patti Smith. I think I only “discovered” her in the nineties. Actually, I know exactly when and where I was. The nineties, the East Village, a used record shop (are they still there?) Me, trying, failing, to be cool. I bought Patti Smith’s Gone Again. Hooked, ready for Horses.

I finally listened to Just Kids, which is narrated by Smith. It’s extraordinary. Though the book focuses on her relationship with Artist Robert Mapplethorpe (who, admittedly, interests me considerably less), it was Smith who lulled me with her prose. When poets commit to narrative, sometimes amazing things happen.

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Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Review by Jill Moore

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(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1961)

I finished Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin on the morning of November 8, 2016. The day stands out because of the election and all of the information that swirled around it. As it turns out, it was a bad day for me. What I had read in a book published in 1961 was not so different from the news I was seeing in my Facebook feed. It has taken me more than a week to process my thoughts on that day and this book.

 
John Howard Griffin was born in Texas. He studied music and medicine in France and joined the French Resistance in 1939 at age 19, where he helped to transport Austrian Jews to safety in England. Griffin joined the Army and spent 1943-1944 as the only European-American (read: white guy) on Nuni, one of the Solomon Islands, where his assignment was to study the local culture. These two pieces of his personal history form the basis of his interest in and writings surrounding ethnology.

The Girls by Emma Cline

Review by Jennifer Spiegel

When was the Summer of Love again?

Sixty-seven.

I don’t really know what’s going on with me, but I seem to be hovering in my bookish ways around a certain era. I found myself listening to Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. West Coast hippie-splendor. Some Joan Baez, a little Haight-Ashbury. Right now, I’m into Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which is but one step ahead, but on the East Coast. Andy Warhol, the Chelsea Hotel, punk rock.

I took a fictional reprieve with Emma Cline’s The Girls (published this year), which takes place mostly in Northern California in 1969. After the Summer of Love, we had Charles Manson. Irony, yes? What’s going on there? This debut—Cline’s first novel!—imagines the girls in a Manson-like cult, moving towards murder. Though the cult, with its creepy/sexy leader, is fascinating, Cline’s girls are the real focus. An exploration of girlhood, of females on the brink of being women. Vulnerability on the brink. Continue reading

Haunting the Last House on Holland Island, Fallen into the Bay by Sarah Ann Winn

Review by Tammy Bendetti

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(Porkbelly Press 2016)

In Sarah Ann Winn’s latest poetry microchapbook, you don’t leave home – home leaves you. Winn builds her ghost story around the real-life collapse of Holland Island, Maryland, into the Chesapeake. Her thrifty six poems behave like a house, a bounded space lavish with meaning. But here, home is no longer itself, and can anchor us no more.

The opening and closing poems are centos, or poems made from pieces of other things. They disorder the familiar, acting out the central idea of the book. In the topsy-turvy bedrooms and kitchens of Haunting, the living become the ghosts. Winn explores the space with playful intimacy. Her poems’ speakers complain about the Home Owners’ Association, grown even more absurdly irrelevant now that the house is underwater. They invite divers to look out the window to view the Titanic. They offer up a tacky ghost tour, complete with “convincing 3D.” Continue reading