California Literary Review


Oh, Those Crazy Modern Victorians: Or What the Heck Is Steampunk?


May 29th, 2013

While there is a sense of pride in having created something so wonderful, there is also a fear that it all might be tarnished or even taken away by the corporate entities that run the film industry, television networks, and fashion.

Civil War 150 – A Readers’ Guide (Part 3)


May 27th, 2013

The most notorious atrocity of the Draft Riots was the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum, located on 5th Ave and 43rd street. Of the “50 Objects” from the New-York Historical Society, none is more poignant than a charred Bible from the Colored Orphan Asylum, “the sole, improbable artifact to endure the sacking and destruction of the orphanage.”

Blind Boys, Berkeley Blue, Phone Hacks and Wozniak


May 15th, 2013

The earliest phone phreak I’ve been able to identify was a young man who went by the nickname “Davy Crockett.” Back in the mid-1950s he figured out how to use a Davy Crockett Cat and Canary Bird Call Flute – a little 50-cent whistle they used to sell at Woolworth stores – to mimic a special tone that telephone operators used to communicate with one another. By imitating this tone he could place his own long distance calls for free.

Civil War 150 – A Readers’ Guide (Part 2)


May 15th, 2013

On a sultry summer afternoon, 150 years ago, a young man named Strong Vincent changed the course of American history. The date was July 2, 1863, around 4 P.M. The place was the left wing of the fish hook-shaped Union defensive position at Gettysburg.

Civil War 150 – A Readers’ Guide (Part 1)


May 8th, 2013

A sampling of new or recent books on the Civil War suggests that this bygone conflict is still relevant to the lives, hopes and fears of the American people in the twenty-first century. If anything, some of the new research and analysis of the Civil War shows that the terrible ordeal of 1861 to 1865 is more meaningful than it has ever been.

Book Review: The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon


May 2nd, 2013

The title The Book of My Lives is apt: rather than presenting a seamless memoir, Hemon instead emphasizes discontinuity, a series of Aleksandar Hemons moving before us in different settings, sometimes without roots to ground them. His decision to provide his version of a table of contents at the end of the book, and to title it “Table of Discontents,” is a play on words that reveals a sense of sadness and dislocation.

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell


May 1st, 2013

An enterprising Japanese capitalist, presumably in conjunction with the state, recruits women from all over the country to work at an innovative new silk factory, appealing both to their own financial need and to their patriotism. Once they sign the Agent’s contract, the women find themselves mutating into human silkworms.

Book Review: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy


April 29th, 2013

Like its monsters, Red Moon is an impressive hybrid—a speculative novel about fairy tale horrors, a love story about star-crossed teenagers from different worlds, and a gritty political thriller.

Book Review: The Books that Shaped Art History, Edited by Richard Shone and John-Paul Stonard


April 18th, 2013

Clark’s The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art received glowing reviews upon its publication in 1956. Among its many virtues, The Nude reasserted the primacy of classical art in the Western world during the dark, drab Cold War era. America’s Abstract Expressionism confronted Soviet Socialist Realism in a long, drawn-out propaganda campaign. Clark showed that there was an alternative to such cultural brinksmanship. Art lovers, tired of ideology, were greatly pleased.

Book Review: See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid


February 18th, 2013

Through the invocation of epic prose forms and literary allusion, Kincaid elevates the nuclear family drama to a grand level as she draws un-remarked and seemingly sincere parallels between the passions and animosities of familial relationships and the grand scope of literary and mythic history. In doing so, she taps into the reader’s intuitive sense of the way all personal tragedies and triumphs feel epic to those who go through them.

Book Review: Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa


February 11th, 2013

Ogawa begins by showing her readers the apparently boring, normal face of human society, and then slowly lets this face of normality slide back to reveal decomposition, death, and emptiness.

Book Review: Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra


January 22nd, 2013

Like Bolaño, Zambra was born in Santiago, Chile. However, he was born later, in 1975, part of a generation that spent its childhood under Pinochet’s rule. In Ways of Going Home, Zambra depicts childhood experiences of trying to understand the cryptic comments and peculiar actions of adults, in an atmosphere where children’s simple pleasures – such as going to watch a soccer match at a municipal stadium — bring back memories of terror, incarcerations, and disappeared loved ones for their parents and neighbors.

Book Review: Raised from the Ground: A Novel by José Saramago


January 9th, 2013

While he has an ear for both the humdrum and the eccentric dissembling pronouncements of the landowners, Saramago primarily concerns himself with capturing the diametrically opposite and logical sentiments of the workers. To dub him the John Steinbeck of his people and generation would at once amount to a compliment and faint praise of the singularity of his writing…

Book Review: A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts by Sebastian Faulks


January 7th, 2013

If we could follow the mortal remains or spiritual resonance of a sport-loving soldier from the Second World War, an impoverished London lad from the time of Charles Dickens, a French servant woman of the Napoleonic era or a scientific researcher from a decade or two in the future, where might these trails lead?

Book Review: Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm


December 30th, 2012

The value of Pullman’s new translation, I believe, lies in his willingness to encompass the darkness as well as the light in the tales, and his determination to retell them in language that does not belong to any particular historical moment or sensibility.

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