Notes on John Fante’s “Ask the Dust”

John Fante’s “Ask the Dust” is a conservative and cynical, short poetic novel. It’s poetic because its episodic movement is tense and packed, its diction deliberate, satisfying Ezra Pound’s definition of poetry. It’s cynical because of its unrelenting brutality posing as reality. Must one always suppose that to live in seediness and squalor means to…

Jerry Lewis at the Paradise

I was working in the film industry; I had a job as an usher at the Paradise theatre in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. The Paradise lobby swept up and curved away from the entrance and concession bar with deep, plush carpet. On the curved, floor-to-ceiling, wood-paneled wall hung commemorative Oscar plaques. In the…

Leslie Fiedler and the Either/Or Fallacy of Poetic Criticism

Perhaps there are only two kinds of poetry, still only two kinds of poems. Dichotomy makes for easy argument by eliminating all other possible alternatives. We often hear there are two schools of thought, and any ambiguity is quickly brushed away. The one poetry might be represented by T. S. Eliot, and is characterized by…

Small Wave Riders 2009 annual surf trip video

Gregg Noll, the first of the modern big wave surfers, never lost sight of the fun to be found in small waves. In the early-60s, still in the original Gregg Noll surfboard shop, in Hermosa, when asked if he found small waves boring after having surfed the giants, he replied not at all, he would always…

Where weather and writing merge

In Joan Didion’s essay “The Santa Ana,” our psyches succumb to exotic weather, an atavistic vestige from when we lived outdoors. The Santa Ana blows dry and hot across the Los Angeles basin, purposefully, a theme exploring a thesis, exhaust flowing west out the boulevards, across the strands and beaches and into the waves, and…

Baseball and the parts of speech

Opening day of baseball should be declared a national holiday. Today’s the big day. In our area we’ve experienced snow flurries, rhubarbs of hail, and sleet, wind, and everyday rain this past week. But now the sun is supposed to make an appearance. Yet we know everything remains imperfect. We know the sun will not…