Summer Reads Part 1

So I don't know about the rest of you, but in this hot weather, all I want to do is sit in front of the fan, drink iced tea, and read short stories. My brain takes a little vacation from full-length narratives, goes in for vignettes and poetry and essays.

With that in mind, here are two collections I've picked up this summer (inadvertently both about California):

The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
The Madonnas of Echo Park functions simultaneously as a series of interrelated short stories and as a novel. Brando Skyhorse is dissecting, analyzing, and rebuilding a largely Latino neighbourhood of Los Angeles called Echo Park. The stories in the book follow different members of the community as they struggle to deal with both personal and shared tragedies.

The reviews reference Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz as influences, and there are good reasons for that. These are funny, sad, and powerfully moving stories, told so intimately that it is tough to distance yourself from the narrator's perspective when shifting to a new story. From the back flap: "Brando Skyhorse in his debut novel gives voice to one neighbourhood in Los Angeles with an astonishing - and unforgettable - lyrical power."

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

I know, I know, this is not exactly a "new" collection of essays, but Slouching Towards Bethlehem makes such good summer reading. Joan Didion's writing preserves perfect moments of blue-skied highwayed 1960s California.

How can you resist lines like: "a haunted millionaire [coming] out of the West, trailing a legend of desperation and power and white sneakers" or "this is a story about love and death in the golden land"? You can't. There is no way. Her words draw you in, immersing you in sunny afternoons, in "fashionable madmen", in tawdry affairs and earnest communes.

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