Historian Mike Davis recently published “Buda’s Wagon: A Short History of the Car Bomb,” a grim and enthralling account of the car bomb from its first use by anarchists in 1920 on Wall Street to it devastating use in Iraq today. Davis, who teaches history at the University of California at Irvine, is the author of “Planet of Slums,” an account of the one billion people worldwide who live in grinding poverty. Davis spoke with freelance writer Dylan Foley by telephone from his home in San Diego.
Q. What are you reading now?
A. I’ve been reading “The People of Paper,” by Salvador Plascencia, a wonderful Pynchonesque first novel. There is a whole emergent stream coming out of the suburbs and barrios of Southern California. There’s a whole group of young writers in their twenties and thirties, politicized by the protests against the anti-immigrant Proposition 182 in the early 1990s. Another book I am particularly fond of is “Still Water Saints” by Alex Espinoza, which is a beautiful, magical realist memoir of his community, which is near Fontana, California. There’s an enormously deep, sentimentalism of place, even when it happens to be a pretty violent place. These writers are beginning to reimagine Southern California through the eyes of new immigrants and their children. They are creating some of the most interesting fiction I know.
The most exciting book I’ve read recently is Abel Paz’s biography, “Durutti in the Spanish Revolution.” It is the revolutionary equivalent of Errol Flynn swinging from the chandelier. Buenaventura Durutti was one of the gods of Spanish anarchism and one of the greatest revolutionaries of all time. His adventures challenge credibility. He was a metal worker who became a pistolero in the 1920s to fight the employers’ gunmen. He escaped to South America, killed plantation bosses and robbed banks in Mexico. He came back to Spain and died in the Spanish Civil War. It’s an absolutely epic biography.