The Los Angeles Review of Books

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Words in a Mirror: On Don Mee Choi’s “DMZ Colony”

A 1.5-GENERATION Korean American living in St. Louis, such as myself, will most likely never realize the fact that they’re living near the 38th parallel north until they come across DMZ Colony, the latest collection of poems by the poet-translator Don Mee Choi, whose opening section takes place in St. Louis. Snow geese say to Choi, “SEE YOU AT DMZ,”...

Sprung from the Joint, but to Where?

JASON HARDY DOESN’T PRETEND to know the solution to America’s criminal justice problem. There are a little more than two pages of policy proposals buried in the epilogue of The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison, Hardy’s memoir about his time as a probation and parole officer in New Orleans. Any more would be unnecessary and disingenuous....

Downsizing Shinzō Abe

THE ICONOCLAST: Shinzō Abe and the New Japan is a portrait of the former prime minister that peels back layers of hype to reveal the extensive failings of Japan’s longest-serving premier, as well as some broader national troubles. Tobias Harris, an astute observer of Japanese politics, tacks back and forth between the spin doctors’ version of Abe...

The Monthly Digest: December 2020

In November, as the people of the United States chose their new President and local representatives, LARB reaffirmed its commitment to covering both global and national politics from a wide variety of angles. The pieces below delve deeply into both recent and distant political history in the US and the around the world, and consider new possibilities...

The Main Thing Is Dread: On Don DeLillo’s “The Silence”

I. GREAT WRITERS TEACH US how to read them, and so, with Don DeLillo, we know the drill by now. Plot? Don’t worry about it. As he famously told us, “All plots tend to move deathward,” so it’s best to pick apart those strands of cause and effect that fool us into thinking story equals significance. There are more relevant things to do with narrative,...

Horton! Thou Should Be Living in This Hour: On Matt Sandler’s “The Black Romantic Revolution: Abolitionist Poets at the End of Slavery”

FOLLOWING GEORGE FLOYD’S MURDER by suffocation, the demand for Black life to matter has flowed through the social system, finding its way into the halls of the academy. Now administrators and faculty take the pressure. In literary studies and sister fields, we feel the weight of calls for new curricula, new courses. More Black authors, deeper engagement...

The Beheading of Rhodes in Cape Town

ON THE 14TH of July, I woke in Cape Town to the news that the memorial bust of Cecil John Rhodes had been decapitated. On a cold night during the most powerful storm in recent memory, someone slipped through the locked gates of a South African National Park, made their way up the mountain, and used an angle grinder to sever Cecil’s 176-pound bronze...

Erudition, Emotion, and the Essay: On Jazmina Barrera’s “On Lighthouses”

THE PUBLICATION OF Jazmina Barrera’s On Lighthouses, in Christina MacSweeney’s translation, brings to English-language readers one of the most beautiful books in recent Mexican literature. The book collects six essays in which personal memories, literary affinities, historical anecdotes, and travel chronicles are interwoven. Each text is titled after...

Peak Brain: The Metaphors of Neuroscience

UP UNTIL 2013, I carried a digital camera wherever I went: to the archive or the bar, and on the occasional trip. I took thousands of photos, sorting through them at odd intervals to post on social media or send to my mom. There was a rhythm to my relationship with the camera: I pointed, I shot, I uploaded, and (usually) I forgot. But that rhythm fell...

Antidotes to Brexit, COVID-19, and Other Afflictions in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet

IN THE SUMMER of 2016, just before the November election that upended United States politics, the United Kingdom had its own paradigm-shifting moment in the form of “Brexit.” As many readers will already know, the portmanteau that combines “Britain” and “Exit” is used to describe the results of the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted to leave the...

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