“Monstress”: Lysley Tenorio Reads From His California Stories

Thursday, Feb. 2
Lysley Tenorio's stories — of faith healers, B-movie sirens, and the Filipino mob that tried to beat the shit out of the Beatles for their snub of Imelda Marcos — are California stories, not just because some are set here (his Filipino migrants light out for San Francisco and Los Angeles) or that some were no doubt written here (Tenorio was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford). They're California stories in the classic go-West sense: The romantic dreamers of a media-mad world arrive at what they've dreamed of and then discover, like Steinbeck's Okies, that there's still much further to go before hitting paradise. In the case of “Monstress,” the first-rate title story of his debut collection (from Ecco), that place is the Hollywood long dreamed of by a Manila actress; for the comic-book kid in “Superassassin,” a tough-minded look at the power fantasies of aimless young men, it's not a physical place but a chance to be what he has long imagined. Even when dealing with themes derived from pop culture, Tenorio lays bare hearts that dare to hope but wind up disappointed, always with the wit and power of a born storyteller. Highlight: In “Monstress,” Tenorio imagines what it must feel like to have worked on one of those cheap-o monster movies — and to hear audiences roaring over it today.

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