Saugus to the Sea
by Bill Brown
Debut novel about the underground in L.A., as well as a search for a road (hence the title) from filmmaker and zinester, Bill Brown, the genius that brings us Dream Whip. There are human characters in Saugus to the Sea, but they play the barest of supporting roles; the primary focus being the relationship between the narrator and the American urban complex of underground Los Angeles. Less of a novel and more of a collection of short stories or personal essays linked by consistent themes. Additionally it's a madcap mystery about an introverted underground-sprinkler repairman who discovers pieces of a grand conspiracy involving Arbor Day insurrectionists, underground irrigation systems, earthquakes and the flashing light on top of the Capitol Records building.
Its elements don't demand to be taken too literally; as metaphors, they form an elegant network of signification. Water, fault lines, maps, flora and architecture are symbols that present urban life and urban history as an interplay of tensions between order and disorder, deliberateness and chance. This is a mystery story (kind of) but the riddle at hand is the whole, vast life of a city. Brown got his start in travel zines and it shows: His genuine love for and knowledge of his subject saves this book from the cynicism and archness that characterize many other chronicles of alienation in the surreal City of Quartz. Illustrations from Brad Young, the cartoonist who draws and writes the comic strip Stay As You Are. (Willamette Week Review)
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