L.A.’s Literary Cartography — from Libros Schmibros to “Joyland”

Sunday, October 9, 2016

On Friday, October 7, Linda, Laurel Ann Bogen and I went to UCLA’s Powell Library for a reception to honor the permanent installation of a map of literary Los Angeles, which was drawn to scale by artist J. Michael Walker, within ten days of its commissioning, in the Fall of 2011. The haste of its cartography shows not a single wrinkle of the necessary improvisation that had to be part of its contingent, yet deftly evocative sketching. The map is not meant to be a definitive frieze; indeed, almost every figure portrayed on the map abuts a swath of empty space, as if to beckon the oncoming migration of writers past, present, and future.

David Kipen and Colleen Jaurretch, co-founders of Libros Schmibros bookstore, and J. Michael Walker, gave brief talks about the map, which had its debut at the Hammer Museum. The artist mentioned his fondness for the writing of the late Wanda Coleman, and cited in particular “Mad Dog, Black Lady,” the title of a poem I had the honor to publish in Momentum magazine in 1974. Wanda Coleman’s archives have recently been processed by UCLA’s Special Collections, and a display case containing a representative selection of printed material and holographs gave a hint of the resources that have now become available to critics of L.A.-based writing. (At the end of the month, there will be an event to celebrate this acquisition by UCLA’s Special Collections.) An additional display case featured correspondence by Raymond Chandler as well as books by and about another UCLA archival all-star, John Fante, one of which was written by my colleague at CSULB, Stephen Cooper.

Just before the formal presentation began, I spotted novelist and short story writer Julia Glassman in the audience. In the two decades during which I taught an annual fiction writing course at Idyllwild Summer Arts, Julia was one of my very best students, and she went on to get a MFA from the University of Iowa. She now works at the UCLA library, and was soon afterwards the first one to be cited in the roll call of those who had made the evening possible. Her first novel, “Other Life Forms,” was published by Dinah Press in 2012. Her most recent story, “Tourists,” appeared recently in “Joyland,” a superb on-line magazine that takes Peter Schjeldahl’s notion of “transmission cities” as its rubric.

I would highly recommend her novel, her story, and the magazine “Joyland” itself. Here are some links to the bookstore, map, and the magazine.

You can order “Other Life Forms” from Dinah Press at:
P.O. Box 24711
Los Angeles, CA 90024
or go to www.dinahpress.com

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