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Random Gems From A Culture Lust Week: Lowbrow Galleries, Fiction, And Jeff Bridges

A painting by pop surrealist Mark Ryden.
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Above: A painting by pop surrealist Mark Ryden.

It's been a really tough week in San Diego, as the community grieves the loss of Chelsea King and struggles with how to make sense of this crime.

As I absorb all of the news coverage, and watch San Diegans grieve at vigils, I also think about how writers and artists have dealt with grief. I recommend two books for solace and perspective.

The first is a book by one of my favorite writers, Joan Didion, called "The Year of Magical Thinking." There's also a slim book called "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis that recounts how he dealt with the death of his wife from cancer, an event that shook his religious beliefs and sent him into despair.

What articles did I enjoy this week?

If you're a fan of lowbrow/pop surrealist art (Mark Ryden, Jeff Soto) then you might find this tour through the lowbrow gallery scene in LA useful. We have similar galleries in SD doing fine work (Subtext, Distinction) but LA is a hotbed.

I liked this look at what happened when Paris, surrealism and photography converged.

Were you as fascinated as I was by the homes of pioneering performance artist Marina Abramovic?

Brian Utely read a book a week for a year (2009) and here's his list. It's a pretty good one, if a little boy-ish, with a mix of fiction and non-fiction, as well as a few classics ("The Fountainhead," "The Old Man and The Sea") Despite its masculine bent, he did read "Eat, Pray, Love," poor soul. Honestly, I know it's considered blasphemous by Gilbert's adoring fans, but I just couldn't get into it.

Speaking of books, I love reading The Guardian's 2-part piece on rules for writing fiction, as written by famous fiction writers. Weighing in are Margaret Atwood, Elmore Leonard, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, and more. Dana Athill's advice: "You don't always have to go so far as to murder your darlings – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye."

Favorite music discovery of the week?

Bettye LaVette's acoustic version of "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got."

Favorite audio gem of the week?

I have three. Elvis Mitchell's interview with Jeff Bridges (the man is as lovable as they come) and Maureen Cavanaugh's interview with Hugo Crosthwaite (his descriptions of growing up in Tijuana and developing as an artist especially). And the recent two-part father/son story on StoryCorps. Part two of the story aired today.

Latest cultural Venn diagram starring San Diego?

Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" opens this weekend (the 3-D work was done by a local company), the Joseph Bellows Gallery has an exhibit of Maggie Taylor's lovely Alice-related paintings, and author Melanie Benjamin's work of historical fiction, "Alice, I Have Been" is at local bookstores (KPBS metro reporter Katie Orr gives it a thumbs up).

Most excited about for next week?

The Oxford American Southern Food issue just arrived. It's full of great photography, storytelling and an article about chicken on a stick.

I'm hoping to see this exhibit at SDMA. Joaquín Torres-García is one of the most influential artists to have emerged from Latin America and SDMA is the exclusive west coast venue for this exhibition. Bob Pincus wrote about the show recently.

Looking forward to Sunday and the Oscars, especially the Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin hosting. Their presence may, just may, make up for an "Avatar" win.

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