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[805] The Sellout – Paul Beatty


“I understand now that the only time that black people don’t feel guilty is when we’ve actually done something wrong, because that relieves us of the cognitive dissonance of being black and innocent, and in a way the prospect of going to jail becomes a relief.” (Prologue, 18)

This book is incendiary and funny. In a time when race in America is at an absolute boil, Paul Beatty comes along with a book so bold and straight-forward, tackling all the racial taboo and faultlines. To the conservative mind it is repugnant, but to the liberal it’s brilliant.

In the nutshell The Sellout is about a young black man born in the “agrarian ghetto” of fictional Dickens, a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of LA, who becomes a farmer and weed dealer. He ends up before the Supreme Court because he is reinstating slavery, at least in his own house, and segregating the local middle school, erecting around town signs that scream “COLORED ONLY.” Son of a psychologist, “Bonbon” has a weird childhood in which he was subjected to many social experiments studying blacks’ behavior.

When I was young I had a reputation for being extremely lucky. I never suffered from the typical ghetto maladies . . . Hoodlums would jump on my friends but leave me alone. The cops somehow never got around to putting my name on a scare card or my neck in a choke hold. (Ch.9, 124)

When Dickens is removed from the map of California, Bonbon aka “Me” goes on a campaign to have it reinstated with the help of Hominy Jenkin, an erstwhile chattel who is the last surviving Little Rascal, who used to perform racial skits. He volunteers to be the narrator’s slave. In addition to segregate the local middle school, he creates facade of a fake charter school populated by smiling white kids that he paints across the street from the real public school, inspiring a race to racially segregated achievement.

What really makes this book shine is Beatty’s constant barrage of asides that takes precedence over the whole plot. His wicked wit, bold racial discourse give the book it’s momentum. The rich asides, so full of racial slurs and innuendos, are very incendiary and provocative. They touch on the hilarious vignettes about nearly every black stereotype imaginable. Within the humor, Beatty encourages the reader to re-examine the preconceptions of race and look at race relations in America in a new light. The book by no means suggests that black Americans were better off in the eras of segregation and slavery; instead, Beatty argues that the idea that racial issues are a thing of the past is a misguided and very detrimental concept. He calls for accountability and open discussion, dealing with inequality, prejudice, and discrimination in a honest way.

304 pp. Picador. Trade Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

The Last Bookstore


The Last Bookstore in downtown LA is more than a bookstore. In the former bank location is a high-ceiling space that allows for gargantuan book-inspired art work and installations.  It took me about an hour to walk through this “museum” before getting my hands on the books. They have used and new books. The main floor is home to fiction and all the social sciences. Mystery is up in the mezzanine with a slightly creepy setting apropos of the genre. Through the book tunnel you will find yourself in the $1 room where, needless to say, all books are $1 each. They have plenty of chairs and leather couches to sit on. Allow for a day of browsing, for just the art work and the store alone took about an hour to walk through.

Last Bookstore


I was on my homeward bound flight from Los Angeles when the magazine informed me about the wonderful Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. Then Tina from Book Chatter mentioned it again when i posted my book adventure in West Hollywood. I think I need to make a trip back just to visit this one. I heard you can make a day trip of Last Bookstore and still not check out the entire collection. I texted my friend and he was very kind to go and take some snapshots for me. All books on the upstairs “labyrinth” are $1 each. New books and myriad of arts made with books will greet you in the main level. Formerly a bank building, the high ceiling gives the bookstore a very welcoming, open atmosphere.

Los Angeles Book Heaven


West Hollywood public library is the epitome of hip, modern and chic. Plenty of workspace with outlets. Lots of comfortable swivel chairs facing the floor-to-ceiling windows that line the whole building. Beautiful wood-carved ceiling.

Book Soup is my favorite bookstore in Los Angeles. Staff is very knowledgeable and friendly. I read through all the staff recommendation cards in fiction section and pick up some Norman Mailer books and The Queen’s Gambit. Obviously the staff loves Norman Mailer and recommends almost every single book of his.

The Barnes & Noble in Studio City is an old theater turned bookstore. You can still see the old 50s decor inside and the movie screen is preserved. The bookstore is very cozy. They don’t seem to mind people taking pictures of their feature book display.

The brick-and-mortar store is one of the largest used bookstores in Los Angeles. It’s like visiting friends and family when you walk in there. Lots and lots of aisles of books. The owner and his employees are very easygoing—they even offer me coffee.

Pilgrimage to Book Soup


Last weekend I went down to Southern California to visit my friends. On the way to Palm Springs I spent a day in Los Angeles. Even on a tight schedule—between a hike up to the Hollywood sign, happy hour in West Hollywood, and Korean BBQ in Koreatown, I managed to pay Book Soup a visit.

In the fold of LA’s gay neighborhood, on Sunset Boulevard, Book Soup is probably the best bookstore on the west coast. Upon entry, you’re greeted by tall, teetering stacks and mazes of shelves crammed with titles that attracted book lovers, entertainment and tourist industry clientele. The vertiginous shelves remind me of those from City Lights Bookshop in San Francisco but this bookstore is free of all those tourists (who are not readers) who just come into City Lights to check off their list. All the new hardback fiction are grouped together in one section. The mystery and paperback fiction are on opposite sides of an aisle. I could literally spend all day browsing just this area alone. I like their staff recommendation cards which come in handy when I am pressed for time.

Vroman’s in Pasadena now owns Book Soup but thank God Vroman’s preserves Book Soup’s chic, stylish, and creative setup around the store. The store was founded in 1975 by Glenn Goldman. Goldman and David Mackler (both in graduate school at UCLA at the time) raised $50,000 and, after doing extensive research on where to locate their store, opened Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard. The rationale for the location, as Goldman explained, was that there “had been a period of upheaval here in the ’60s—of thought and ideas—and I felt that the people who lived in the neighborhood would and could really support a bookstore.” Goldman announced he was selling Book Soup on just before he died of pancreatic cancer in Jan 2009. Vroman’s Bookstore and Book Soup signed an agreement October 9, 2009, to purchase Book Soup.

Extra: Book Soup in Los Angeles

I’ve been wanting to write about this fabulous bookstore in West Hollywood that has been taken over by Vroman’s in Pasadena. Conveniently located on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, this is a must-stop for me. It’s the ultimate shrine of bookstore. The mecca. It’s easy to get lost in the vertiginous bookshelves that are black, chic, and classy. New books are immediately greeting you as you walk through the door. Fiction is located in the two aisles behind the new book table. Staff recommendation cards

After Dutton’s bowed out, Book Soup became one of the last strongholds on the Westside, a place where bookish nerds and the community builders who love them can seek sanctuary from wolves and bullies. Though definitely not as old or storied as City Lights here in San Francisco, Book Soup could be its L.A. cousin, replete with brainy selections, tall wooden shelves, and that particularly fine smell of ink and paper found only in indie bookstores.

They have a huge selection for such a small space, and the inventory is perfectly edited. The staff is wonderful, and they give recommendations that could only come from true book lovers! As an avid reader I find it difficult to discover new authors/books in your average bookstore, but Book Soup never disappoints. On the most recent visit I managed to read all the staff recommendations in fiction section and bought 8 books in light of them. I whiled away three hours just doing that and browsing with a friend.

Book Soup | 8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood CA 90069

The Iliad Bookshop in NoHo

Yesterday at dim sum DM showed me an article on LA Times about The Iliad Bookshop, which was named the best used bookstore in LA by the Los Angeles Magazine in April 2007. That article jumpstarted our day after dim sum, as we drove from San Gabriel Valley to North Hollywood. Nested in the quiet stretch of Cahuenga Boulevard in the NoHo artist district, The Iliad is housed in this dark orange adobe type of building at the corner. Upon entrance we were greeted by the 2-Dollar book-table—everything on it is 2 bucks. Owner Dan Weinstein briefly informed us the layout of the store, which has recently been renovated and expanded to 5,000 sq. feet. The fiction and literature section has been relocated to the annex toward the back of the well-lighted store with new hard-wood floor. Lounged on a soft leather single-seat couch, asleep, is the one-eyed residence cat Zola. This is the list of what I acquired after a quick 15-minute browse:

Brightness Falls, Jay McInerney
Published in 1992 to great reviews, this novel introduces the characters later seen in 2006’s The Good Life, which I enjoyed tremendously.

Hold Tight, Christopher Bram
The Iliad has multiple copies of Bram’s first editions. This book is a page-turner about a gay man who is made a spy against the Nazi in a brothel.

Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
I’m getting my hand on this one after I zipped through East of Eden, which has now made my all-time favorite novel list.

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
Many of you have raved about how you cannot put down this book. I have started reading this morning and it’s catching on like a wild fire. The copy I got is the hardbound, UK edition, with library wrap—for $10.

We had to leave after the brief visit due to impending plans. But if I’m allowed to browse the whole store more closely, going through the canyons of shelves and matching the selections against my list, I would need a big rig to carry the loots home. The prices are so competitive. The Iliad Bookshop, by the way is named so because at the time it first opened there was a video store next door called the Odyssey at the old location. The homey feeling to the store has, I’m sure driven book lovers and readers to the book mecca. So who says people in LA don’t read?

Answer to Song Riddle | Highway 1

Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) by Air Supply.

Looks like George has a fun, fulfilling trip as well!

Tears, Getty

A while ago my friend Greg used to host this Friday tunes game in which bloggers are to guess from the lyrics he provided the song and the artist. So I decide to host a round of this game. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes and trickled down my face when this 1981-2 platinum hit floated into the air from the radio as I pulled into the Getty.

Here I am playing with those memories again
And just when I thought time had set me free
Those thoughts of you keep taunting me

Holding you, a feeling I never outgrew
Though each and every part of me has tried
Only you can fill that space inside

So there’s no sense pretending
My heart it’s not mending

Just when I thought I was over you
And just when I thought I could stand on my own
Oh, baby those memories come crashing through
And I just can’t go on without you

On my own I’ve tried to make the best of it alone
I’ve done everything I can to ease the pain
But only you can stop the rain

I just can’t live without you
I miss everything about you

Just when I thought I was over you
And just when I thought I could stand on my own
Oh baby those memories come crashing through
And I just can’t go on without
Go on without
It’s just no good without you

Without you, without you, without you
Oh baby, those memories come crashing through
And I just can’t go on without, you

So what is the name of this tear-jerker? Who is the artist? I’ll tell you the answer when I get back. And don’t worry, I’m fine, just a bit too emotional and sensitive at times! I am what the Chinese call a person with shallow eyes–plagued by too much weakness.. I take people and relationship too seriously. But the good thing is, I’ve got George (my lab) to hug with! I guess healing a process that is not complete without tears.

Go Go Go…LA

Taking a road trip to LA to see some friends. Hope to stop by the Getty Museum and Malibu. George is coming as well. I have pre-scheduled updates to the blog, mostly reading update and some entries pertaining to War and Peace for those of you who are interested. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. Blaring from my iPod speakers is….

Give Me Some Love – James Blunt