David Loftus

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Native Oregonian David Loftus has lived in Europe and Boston, and traveled in Asia and West Africa. He has been a full-time newspaper reporter and has authored three books. Currently, Loftus writes occasional free-lance book reviews for THE OREGONIAN as well as the CALIFORNIA LITERARY REVIEW. He also blogs at www.americancurrents.com. After spending much of his adult life as a writer, copyeditor, and proofreader, with only occasional forays on the stage, he started working seriously as an actor in his late 40s, in 2005. For the past seven years, he has read literature aloud to live audiences every month at a coffee shop, an event he calls "Story Time for Grownups." By 2009, Loftus had become a full-time free-lance writer and actor, and was regularly doing print modeling jobs and acting in commercials, industrial videos, and indie films in 2010. In early 2012 he also launched a political talk radio show which he hosts on Sunday nights but which is also archived for later listening or download at any time on BlogTalkRadio.com. Loftus lives in Portland with his wife Carole and dog Pixie, a seven-pound toy fox terrier.

The Story of AC/DC by Susan Masino

Rock biographies, particularly of bands, are an odd subgenre. With an individual singer or instrumentalist, the narrative may take any of the traditional “hero” arcs (rags to riches, unappreciated innovator’s ultimate triumph, temptation/fall and — usually — redemption, etc.), but the story of a hydra-headed rock band must adopt a more amorphous approach.

NBC’s Fantasy Series Grimm, Set in Portland, Oregon

For those who haven’t seen the show, Grimm starts from the premise that all the supernatural beings in the tales by the Brothers Grimm were real creatures. In the pilot, young Portland (Oregon) homicide detective, Nick Burkhardt, learned from his dying aunt that he is a direct descendant of the Grimm Brothers. His forebears were not just storytellers, they were hunters. The Grimm bloodline enables Nick to perceive the many “wesen” (the German word for “creatures,” pronounced “vayzen”) among us through their human disguises, and he has a responsibility to protect the human race from the dangerous ones.

Some Like It Hot: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion by Laurence Maslon

There’s plenty about Monroe, of course — her perpetual lateness to the set, her entourage (especially acting coach Paula Strasberg’s hovering and kibitzing), nervous visits from hubby Arthur Miller because of her pregnancy with a child that would miscarry, and so on. She overdosed on sleeping pills the first week of shooting. And apparently she could be very inconsistent about nailing her lines.

Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers

What’s remarkable about her is that she shares her story with the class simply, with a kind of wonder and interest, as if it were not her own. In fact, Thassa finds delight, awe, and beauty in almost everything: her journal entries and stories charm everyone in the class, as does her person: “she shouldn’t even be pretty, except for the conspiracy of delight rounding her cheeks.” She seems perpetually happy! How can it be?

Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius by Colin Dickey

The 19th century science known as phrenology — which posited that the human skull conforms to the shape of the brain within, which in turn expresses in physical form one’s innate moral and intellectual faculties (crudely, that by feeling the shape of a person’s head you could tell whether he or she had great intellectual or creative powers, or was more likely a criminal) — had a brief but rich heyday. It influenced the thought and writings of the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and especially Walt Whitman, as well as scientists and physicians of the time.

The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

Most of the narratives are first-person accounts by Mary, so readers get to know her very well. She is a strong, resourceful, intelligent, and fascinating character in her own right. Sometimes, she can seem a little too perfect: she speaks ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (from her theology studies), French and German, and manages to pick up a good speaking ability in Arabic and Hindi during their adventures overseas. Her throwing arm has deadly accuracy, and on occasion she uses it to great effect with knives, darts, or just rocks. She is a great picker of locks.

A Conversation with Author and McSweeney’s Editor Paul Collins

“I think most scholars tend to trust the First Folio more than anything else, not because of the materials that went into it, in terms of what papers did they have on hand, but because it was [the actors] Heminge and Condell. Because it’s the only two people that were directly involved in the productions, that have ever taken part in pulling together an edition of Shakespeare’s works, and so it’s their presence as much as any identifiable set of documents that made the Folio so important to scholars. They’re all we have in terms of eyewitness editing.”

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti

Not quite a century ago, on August 29, 1911, thousands of people began flocking to the Louvre (among them, Franz Kafka and his friend Max Brod) to gaze at a blank space on a wall. The 49-acre Louvre – still the largest museum in the world today – had been closed for most of the preceding week for the investigation of a singular occurrence: the most famous painting in the world had disappeared from that blank spot.

Nothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes

“For me, death is the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about; unless you know and feel that the days of wine and roses are limited, that the wine will madeirize and the roses turn brown in their stinking water before all are thrown out forever—including the jug—there is no context to such pleasures and interests as come your way on the road to the grave.”

Confessions of an Eco-Sinner by Fred Pearce

But Pearce knows more fundamental rethinking will be necessary to keep our species going. “The worst twentieth-century crime of urban planners was to design cities around cars.” We have to transform cityscapes “to make the car … irrelevant,” he writes. “We simply have to give up flying as much as possible.” He thinks the dangers of nuclear power have been “overblown,” and admits coal may be necessary to tide us over, if we can effectively bury its emissions.

Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong by Pierre Bayard

These books are indeed a kind of witty parlor game, certainly. But though Bayard occasionally gallops into the high alpine meadows of literary and psychoanalytic theory, he still sticks closely to the text he’s given. And though he probably doesn’t believe half of what he’s saying, it does pass the logical plausibility test.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon by Crystal Zevon

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is sort of an extended wake for its subject. There’s very little biographical narrative per se; instead, the book compiles a massive array of anecdotes, memories, and opinions from dozens upon dozens of the people who knew him, from engineers, girlfriends, and backing musicians to a fairly astounding variety of celebrities who spent time with Zevon.