Tuesday, February 25

New Los Angeles Review of Books aims to raise L.A.'s literary profile

One generally situates the capital of the American publishing world in New York. In the privileged roster of literary cities, Los Angeles may be overlooked as a secondary player.

Wednesday night at the Hammer Museum, the editors of the new Los Angeles Review of Books explained how their new web-only book review would challenge this common conception and bring Los Angeles to a more deserving forefront in the consciousness of serious readers looking for criticism that is both rigorously edited and intelligent, yet accessible.

UCLA Professor of creative writing Mona Simpson moderated a panel comprised of LARB founding editor Tom Lutz (also a professor of creative writing at UC Riverside), editor-at-large Lisa Jane Persky and senior fiction editor Matthew Specktor. A short Q&A session followed.

For most of the evening, the editors addressed the challenges and successes of the nascent LARB, and how they were attempting to reconcile literature’s global generality with its regional specificity and the ways the LARB planned to incorporate the efforts of young, aspiring literary types with those of seasoned writers and academics.

While LARB launched its preview site – which looks much like a nicely tailored blog site – in April earlier this year, it will launch its beta version in early 2012. The new site will feature a carefully curated system of links to help visitors stumble upon articles and books they otherwise might not have encountered (resembling the experience of browsing through staff recommendations at Barnes and Noble) in addition to video interviews with authors and young readers alike.

Though the panel was informative, the event seemed to lack a bit of structure, and the editors did not expand enough on the subject of Los Angeles as “a true capital for literature,” or “the ways in which the city and its literary institutions offer a unique vantage for the 21st century,” as the program description stated.

Still, the evening worked best as a casual discussion about LARB and its visions for both the immediate and far-off future in literary Los Angeles.

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