The City at Three P.M.: Writing, Reading, and Traveling

Blending literary criticism and travel writing, the offbeat essays that compose University of Texas creative writing professor and novelist Peter LaSalle's collection The City at Three P.M.: Writing, Reading and Traveling range across space and time to form an engaging portrait of his fertile mind's encounters with the world.

A representative LaSalle essay finds him strolling the streets of a city, seeking out settings or landmarks that will connect him to the work of his favorite writers like Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires), Nathanael West (Los Angeles) or Gustave Flaubert (Tunisia, the modern locale for his novel of ancient Carthage, Salammbô). His visit to the library where Borges worked for nine years, for example, gives him a new appreciation of "the craft and vision of what he did in those fully innovative, dazzling short stories." When he encounters a restless crowd across the street from the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, it conjures up for him the "wild and near apocalyptic" climactic scene of West's The Day of the Locust. LaSalle (Mariposa's Song) is never less than passionate about his attachment to his favorite books, admitting that he's been "close to obsessed with" Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano "for nearly my whole adult life."

As is the case with his physical journeys, LaSalle doesn't hesitate to stray from the main roads when sharing his literary tastes, but he does so without becoming pedantic. On the page, his words leave the distinct impression that he'd be a fascinating traveling companion in real life. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

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