Monday, April 23, 2018

The Mirage Factory: A Book Review

Los Angeles is an interesting bit of sprawl, and to read THE MIRAGE FACTORY is to come to an understanding on how that urban oasis came to be, in a most unlikely of spots.

Gary Krist does a fine job of presenting three separate narratives that describe well the events that shaped LA and guided the city towards significance. He begins with the story of Mr. Mulholland, the man who stole water from other areas so that LA could grow. Intertwined with the water saga is the brief history of D.W. Griffith, the star film director who was prominent in the film business that would define the area. Finally, the author introduces the reader to Aimee Semple McPherson, a character in her own right, and the sort of resident you'd expect to find in a city that has its own culture.

While the three key players were familiar to me, there was a great deal that was not, and I found this book to be a page-turner as Mulholland pushed ahead with his scheme to irrigate LA while D.W. Griffith cranked out film after film and became a force in the movie business. And how did the evangelist get her start before drifting into scandal? It's in THE MIRAGE FACTORY.

I thoroughly enjoyed this treatment of LA in the early decades of the Twentieth Century, when the city grew so fast that the water supply system couldn't keep up. The book is packed with fascinating details and anecdotes, and would be better than any guide book if you're planning a trip out west. Or have ever enjoyed a film or wondered about those mega-churches that draw enormous crowds.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the advanced copy. This was one of the best I've seen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

House of Nutter: A Book Review

Fashion underwent a tremendous revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, and Tommy Nutter was one of that revolution's leaders.

This biography of the noted fashion designer was fascinating. A man from humble beginnings set the men's fashion world on its head with his bold designs and use of color at a time when the world was still very much a grey place. Add to that kind of bold thinking the fact that Mr. Nutter was gay when the gay world was still in the closet, and you have the makings of an intriguing read.

The writer brings us into the world of Savile Row tailoring and gay nightlife in swinging London, and he does it well. He places us in the disco era, among the stars in Tommy Nutter bespoke suits, all glitz and glamour and tragedy when the AIDS virus began to spread.

Not to be forgotten is Tommy's brother David, the noted photographer, who also features prominently in the tale. He was a groundbreaking artist in his own right, and the story of two gay brothers in creative fields, blazing new trails, makes for a very enjoyable read.

The younger generation, those who did not grow up in the bland 1950s and think the 1960s was all about protesting will find this treatment of those days interesting. There was a revolution, pushed on by the post-war babies, and the protests took on many forms, including wide lapels and colors beyond the grey/navy pallet.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for access to a book that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


At it's heart, the novel is an examination of love, and how many love stories one might have. Doesn't sound like much? Ah, but Julian Barnes has a way of sneaking up on you, drawing you in to a novel that soon has your full attention.

THE ONLY STORY is a coming of age, in a way, as protagonist Paul and all his late-teen lust falls in love with a neighbor much older than himself. He is the narrator, telling the story as he looks back at a romance that shaped his adult life, for better or worse.

It's difficult to write a review without spoilers because so much pops up, events sprinkled throughout the narrative that prompt page turning, but what becomes of Paul is told so well that I can only recommend the book.

The prose is the sort that feels effortless, as if the author just sat down and let the words flow. A few spots got somewhat draggy, as can happen in a book filled with internal dialogue and pondering, but it passes. And it's a fairly short novel, perfect for a quiet weekend's read when you want to delve into a study of a fascinating character.