The reading by Daniel Alarcon last night at Skylight Books in Los Angeles had what every reading should have: sponsorship by Dewars. Yes, that’s right, the folks who make whiskey. They made mixed drinks with ginger beer and the packed house drank enough to make listening easy but not so much to make listening difficult. Alarcon, just off the high of being named one of the best new authors under 35 by Granta, was introduced by Kerrie Kvashay-Boyle, the daughter of T.C. Boyle, who brought Alarcon rather low by repeatedly calling him a Momma’s boy. A Momma’s boy with machismo. She had a story to explain why the characterization was correct, but the story didn’t stick as well as the phrase.
Anyway, Alarcon, with a shock of dark hair sticking up like the prow of a ship and wearing a gray T-shirt and sagging jeans, came out despite the introduction to read from his novel Lost City Radio. After reading a selection involving the disappearance of a man, his torture at the hands of soldiers, and his solicitation by a mysterious man in a wrinkled suit, Alarcon informed us that he hates the term magical realism (just a marketing term, he insisted, that Borges and Cortazar do not fit within), that all writers should love the medium of radio as opposed to television or film, and that it was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s eightieth birthday. Happy Birthday, he said, and we all drank. I haven’t been to a happier reading.