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A Year in Van Nuys Paperback – May 28, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (May 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609809512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609809518
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,603,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With Tsing Loh (Depth Takes a Holiday) behind the wheel, readers are in for a crackling, witty, loop-the-loop rideno air bags, no seatbeltsacross the interior landscape of an almost-40 writer coping with the pressures and irritations of modern society. She targets such social phenomena as the Zone Diet, health clubs, plastic surgery and mass joke e-mails. Old standbys like marriage, older siblings, money and advertising are deftly dealt with, though she teeters on overkill with her primary obsession, aging. Tsing Loh, whose humorous neuroses will be familiar to listeners to public radio's Morning Edition and Marketplace, struggles with the friction between where she thinks her career, marriage, health and beauty should be and where they actually rate, with hilarious fallout. This self-described downwardly mobile nonachiever views the world through "dung-colored glasses," though her message brightens as she frees herself of youthful goals and comes to accept her age and station. Tsing Loh incorporates into her text crossed-out sentences, e-mail correspondence and outtakes from her television forays. Unfortunately, her frenetic pace and humor slow in the final section. And while the book's title suggests the looming presence of an oppressive Van Nuys, the Los Angeles suburb lacks the full intensity of Tsing Loh's ferocious stare, save for some early references (e.g., it regularly ranks as one of the worst places to live in America). But that unfulfilled promise shrinks in the face of Tsing Loh's white-knuckled, dirty-fingernailed imagination. (May)Forecast: Tsing Loh will launch her new book at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, which she's emceeing, and will tour the West Coast. Readers throughout the rest of the nation should expect to hear Tsing Loh bemoaning Van Nuys on the radio, the first printing of 20,000 copies should sell briskly.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Thirtysomething Loh's account of the year she came to terms with the novel she'd never finish; her perfectly manicured sister; and five months spent away from her husband (he was in a band on a cruise ship) bounces from embarrassed giggles to straight-out guffaws. Interspersing her autobiographical musings with e-mail from the Web site she wrote for, squiggly diagrams suggesting Roz Chast gone mad, and encounters with her spouse, sister, therapist, and former coworkers, Loh reaches quite lovely heights of parody. A high point is her skewering of writers' groups ("Before you take that year off and write a novel, ask yourself, when's the last time I sat down and read one?"), but she's equally sharp when characterizing her mother-in-law's conversation ("fractals of stories") or insisting that she has no cultural identity whatsoever. She does have minor plastic surgery, and she's not kind to the one person featured in her account who actually is middle-aged, but it's fractured, funny, and reads like an extended NPR rap just before the top of the hour. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Funny, fast-paced, witty and wise.
"ldeastlake"
Sandra Tsing Loh is one of the funniest writers in the U.S. and this book is a must-read.
Alfred J. Neuman
It felt as though she was just trying too hard to be funny.
Peggy Vincent

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on June 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sandra Tsing Loh's latest book reads more like a series of her hilarious essays cloaked in the guise of a novel. The novel's structure follows the character of "Sandra" through one year of her life as she struggles with writers block, perilously careens towards 36, and lives in of all places-horrors!-Van Nuys California. All of this is done with her bone dry humor in rare form, especially in the earlier half of the novel when she's expounding on the Zone diet, and Bally's Total Fitness. I loved the first two thirds, then felt it petered out a little by the end. Living in Los Angeles I found alot of the book really funny, although I don't know how people outside the city would relate. However most people in their mid thirties will find her characters plight at "what am I doing with my life" syndrome very real, funny, and a little bit scary. If you're a fan of David Sedaris, N.P.R., or just like to feel like you're hip and in the know, you'd probably enjoy this.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kinsey Millhone on June 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever had the experience of reading a book and, despite the fact that you've never met the author, felt that it was written JUST FOR YOU? Well, that's what reading A YEAR IN VAN NUYS was like for me. Never mind that I've never set foot in Van Nuys; I could relate so much to Sandra, in her mid-30s, her youth passing her by, wondering, where's that novel I should have written -- heck, where's my Oscar? I can't remember the last time a book made me laugh so hard as I was nodding, "Yes, that's so TRUE!" Sandra is the funniest woman in America and you don't have to be a Southern Californian to love this book. I'd place her right up there with David Sedaris, Merrill Markoe and Al Franken in the pantheon of Authors Who Make Me Laugh Hysterically.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By skspaz on July 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After spending uncounted months commuting from my place in suburbia-like Orange County, California to my boyfriend's less than palatial abode in Van Nuys, this book came along. It had me laughing out loud from the first page (the zone-approved turkey) and wiping my eyes at the last. For anyone who's ever thought they should write a memoir, or wanted to be like or murder a sibling, or, heck, anyone who's wondered what the hell's wrong with Californians... this is a great read. Just don't try to read it on your birthday... with a handful of Tylenol PM's.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter Kobs on May 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
I've been told that it's important to "step outside your comfort zone" every once in a while, and that's exactly what I did by reading this book. The experience was, well, a little bit weird.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Sandra's female, I'm male. She's Asian-American, I'm your basic WASP-American mongrel. She's a product of life in metro LA, I'm a Midwesterner living in a small city. I don't particularly care for southern California and I'm sure she'd be bored to tears by Battle Creek, Michigan. And so forth.

For me, reading "A Year in Van Nuys" was like stumbling on a diary that someone accidently left at the airport. Sandra is spilling her guts throughout most of the book about her marriage, career problems, friends, therapist, money issues and somewhat desperate life in suburban LA. She mixes regular narrative text with e-mails, cartoon drawings, diagrams, photos, confessional essays and some other strange stuff to make it read like a confidential journal. I loved the use of "strike through" type to show earlier versions of her thought process.

Whether you like it or not, Sandra forces us to be voyeurs. That can be funny and also annoying. For example, her take on the role of religion in weddings is hilarious, as are her riffs on life as a freelance writer. On the other hand, her obsessions about eye bags and cosmetic surgery are just kind of boring. The last few pages of the book bring some sense of resolution to her free-floating self-loathing, but not enough to matter, in my opinion.

Ultimately, "A Year in Van Nuys" is a quick, silly, moderately entertaining read -- just right for that wait between flights. To find Sandra's REAL comedic talent, you'll have to listen to one of her commentaries on NPR.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MLPlayfair on August 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sandra is ALL over the map here with topics for discussion, and they're all funny. Here's a book you can open at just about any page and find something to make you laugh. You can read A YEAR IN VAN NUYS again and again. And it's so REAL! Laugh-out-loud funny. I liked her parody of "A Year in Provence" -- very clever. I'd like to point that you don't have to live in Southern California to get the humor. My favorite part: Her annotated illustrations, like the maps of the brain.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Norm Zurawski on December 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a good - not great - book that generally entertains, but goes too far in an effort to keep the reader amused and interested. The author writes at a higher intelligence level than your typical best selling author does. The downside is that she knows it, and it effects her work. More importantly, however, is the prevalence of eye bag references that nearly made me throw this book in the trash, something I have never done in my life. Six weeks after having finished the book, I sit here editing this review with one prevailing thought in my head, the less-than-enjoyable eye bag references.

The book is presumably about a year in the life of the author. While I don't know how much resonance there is between her real life and what we read on the pages, you can tell there is some. There are too many passionate outbursts for all of this to be fiction. After all, what writer doesn't reveal some of their soul in the words they create? This is what makes it so real and easy to read. As someone once said somewhere, write what you know. But then, what if you know nothing? I digress.

The author clearly knows more than nothing and for the most part, the contents of what she does know are enjoyable to read. Some of the events in the book are resonant with things I've experienced in my own life, despite the fact that I'm a man. I'll go ahead and say the eye bags are *not* one of those things. Still, the struggle to be an author and her ultimate decision in that endeavor are thoughts close to many I have had before. Her final decision, entirely contrary to the fact she authored a book, is something I've also come to adopt. Maybe it this freedom has led her to this work? Again, I digress.

It's a refreshing book, light yet intelligent to a point. It's a quick and enjoyable read.
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