cover image ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines

ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines

Sesshu Foster and Arturo Ernesto Romo. City Lights, $17.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-87286-770-3

Poet Foster (Atomik Aztex) and artist Romo deliver a maddeningly accomplished inquiry into the secret history of East Los Angeles. Conceived as an investigation of the now-defunct airships that once ruled the skies of southern California, the novel begins with a broadcast from an airborne pirate radio station that’s in search of the elusive Sky City and gets stranger from there. A fried-chicken enthusiast researches a mysterious ranch in the hills of El Sereno; a paranoid telephone operator wanders through a “post-industrial wasteland”; an aerialist rappels up the city’s skyscrapers to witness a war between a zeppelin and an enormous papier-mâché kraken; and a team of agents—with unlikely monikers like Enrique Pico and Swirling Alhambra, the latter of whom is awarded Poet of the Universe, “an illusory Dream job for dreamers”—reports from an apocalyptic downtown. In other sections (illuminated by Romo’s wondrous collages, doctored photographs, etchings, and mixed-media prints), Lee Harvey Oswald recites a dirty limerick, Ulysses S. Grant shares a recipe for pancakes, and Los Angeles is destroyed by “Death Rays from Hair Balls from Outer Space.” And that’s before the appendices, some 70 pages of evocative eyewitness interviews, adverts, and manifestoes. This is as much fun to read as it must have been to make. (Apr.)