January 28, 2014
By David L. Ulin
In the current issue of Granta, Bernard Cooper publishes an excerpt from his memoir “My Avant-Garde Education,” which is due out next year.
Cooper, of course, is a memoirist and fiction writer (“Guess Again,” “The Bill From My Father”) of uncommon subtlety and nuance, who uncovers in the quietness of personal experience the tumult of being alive. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he’s a quintessential local voice, working from out of what D.J. Waldie calls our “sacred ordinariness,” portraying the city not as mythic landscape but as a place where people live.
If you don’t think that’s radical, you might want to think again. Along with Waldie, Wanda Coleman, Susan Straight, Eloise Klein Healy and a handful of others, Cooper is one of the writers responsible for developing a Southern California aesthetic, in which what’s most vivid about the place is everything we might take for granted somewhere else. Work, family, education, sexual and personal identity: This is the substance of his writing, along with a fine-grained eye for observation, a way of seeing situations as they are, not as he wishes they might be. Read more .