David L. Ulin
In his new book, The Lost Art of Reading, Ulin describes the reading process as ". . . an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage.'' Ulin, book critic for the Los Angeles Times, is also the author of The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith and editor of Another City: Writing From Los Angeles and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology.
What's on your nightstand?
No Sleep Till Wonderland by Paul Tremblay. He's a Boston-based mystery writer. I enjoyed his first book, The Little Sleep. He's writing in a hard-boiled detective genre, and it's tough to tell a story in that genre. He is able to do it, making it fresh.
Who is on your radar right now to read?
The first one I'm really into is dead, but it's Albert Cossery. He was a French Egyptian who lived in Paris. He died in 2008, and I just discovered him and his book, The Jokers. He's cynical but in a gentle way, and I like that. Also there's John D'Agata's About a Mountain. He teaches at University of Iowa. The mountain in question is Yucca. The federal government was going to create a dump site. He writes about that, but it's really a meditation on time and uncertainty. It's beautiful, gorgeous prose.
What writer or book first hooked you during your formative years?
Kurt Vonnegut. I started reading him at 12. He blew my mind. I still think that he had such an inventive way of telling stories, in terms of being funny and smart and cynical and political. A lot of grownups I knew seemed to see the world a certain way, and I remember when I read Vonnegut I got excited and thought, "This guy gets it. I'm not the only way who thinks this way."
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer