"A performative resistance to authority, channeling the multiple contrasting voices and stories of Los Angeles into a mural exploding with color and contradictions." Los Angeles Review of Books
“Graffiti Palace is stunninga blend of Joe Ide‘s IQ detective novels, Thomas Pynchon, Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84.” Chicago Review of Books
"[A] bravura improvisation on The Odyssey . . . Lombardo tosses off Odyssey markers and channels Thomas Pynchon and Colson Whitehead . . . Lombardo has created an exuberantly cartoonish, incisive, and suspenseful tale of an erupting city and an earnest “street scholar” intent on making us “see the writing on the walls.” Donna Seaman, Booklist
“This debut novel is another unexpected wild ride, one with an ambitious and imaginative premise… [and a] rhythmic urgency and inventiveness propelling the reader forward through protagonist Americo Monk’s dark night.” Los Angeles Daily News
"[Lombardo's] use of supernatural imagery that clouds the mind invokes a nightmare landscape for the people in it, something so horrible it begs not to be real." The Coil (on Medium)
"In his debut novel, Lombardo, who flashes impressive stylistic chops throughout, seems to be aiming for his own jazz-inflected version of a Joycean “night town” ramble infused with history, urban legend, dark comedy, and mythological tropes." Kirkus
“Reading Graffiti Palace, I half wondered if the Watts Riots had been staged all those years ago just so A.G. Lombardo could write a novel about it. This is a book that’s as crazy and unpredictable as an urban uprising; it’s a phantasmagoric journey, written in precise and haunting prose, through a wounded and defiant city called Los Angeles.” Héctor Tobar, author of The Barbarian Nurseries and Deep Down Dark
“What an audacious debut: a novel that reframes The Odyssey as a journey across Los Angeles during the Watts Riots. Beautiful, hard-edged, challenging, and unexpected, Graffiti Palace recalls the linguistic exuberance of Thomas Pynchon while evoking the surreal landscape of a city under siege. At the same time, it never loses sight of the essential human dramathe desire, despite (or because of) everything that’s happening, to find a passage home.” David Ulin, author of Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles and editor of Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology
“An electrifying new voice in American fiction. A. G. Lombardo’s wildly entertaining debut reimagines the 1965 Watts Riots as an Homeric journey through rioting cops, burning streets, CIA conspiracies, and the potentially fatal semiotics of race and oppression in America. Along the way, we also run into Godzilla, Elijah Muhammad, the greatest taggers in the history of Los Angeles freeway art, and a deadly fortune cookie war. Graffiti Palace is a stunning arrival, easily the most exciting book of the year.” Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill
Lombardo’s auspicious but exhausting debut breathlessly tracks Americo Monk’s tortured journey through Los Angeles during the 1965 Watts Riots. Monk is an overt nod to Odysseus, not a warrior but a scholar of graffiti. He documents the beautiful, portentous runes tagging his burning city, putting down drawings and notes in a blue notebook he nearly gives his life to save. As Monk staggers southward through the mayhem toward his home on the harbor, he encounters, among myriad others, members of a cult of Muslims called the Fruit of Islam, Chinese gangsters at war over fortune cookies, a Japanese woman claiming to be propaganda mouthpiece Tokyo Rose, various voodoo priestesses, brutal cops, and a stranger named Tyrone, “the blind madman with the satellites and ringing phone booths,” likely a stand-in for Homer himself. Monk’s girlfriend, Karmann, waits, like Penelope, among men who want her, her needle that of a record player, marking the time until Monk returns. Everything in this novel is a reference to something else: Media Environmental Displays, USA, a billboard company advertising addictive skin-lightening products, is just one of many clever examples. The language and story are bloated, which softens the impact the novel could’ve had. Nevertheless, Lombardo’s voice is promising, and readers will be intrigued to see what he comes up with next. (Mar.)
In boiling-over 1965 Los Angeles, graffiti fan Americo Monk is trying to return to the little harbor community built of shipping containers that he and his girlfriend call home. Setting The Odyssey during the 1965 Watts Riots, with surreal overtones, is an awesome idea.
The 1965 Watts riots become the backdrop for one man's journey through a long night of terror, wonder—and semiotic inquiry.Americo Monk sees himself as "kind of an amateur urbanologist," an aficionado of artistic vandalism (aka graffiti), and an underground researcher into the myriad street gangs which declare whole sections of Los Angeles as their armed camp. On the evening of Aug. 11, 1965, when white police make a traffic stop in the streets of predominantly black Watts that sets off a powder keg of pent-up resentments, Monk had been roaming nearby, scribbling random arcana into the notebook that's never left his side. Now he's been swept up in the fiery chaos of the city's worst race riot, far from the home he's made with his pregnant girlfriend, Karmann Ghia, near an abandoned cargo depot along Los Angeles Harbor. So begins Monk's rowdy, near-hallucinatory search for a way back "south, toward the harbor." Throughout Monk's odyssey, he's buffeted and bounced through a series of heart-stopping perils and exotic diversions. Besides the inevitable hassles with LAPD detectives, two of whom covet Monk's notebook for its gang-related info, the people Monk encounters along the way include a phlegmatic "mosquito abatement" officer going about his business in the back alleys, short-tempered Chinese gangsters who've waged bloody all-out war over fortune cookies, a Nation of Islam contingent led by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad himself, and even the notorious Tokyo Rose as she's lugging a bag of jazz LPs to her house. As Monk dodges and weaves his way through the festering, sweltering maelstrom, Karmann, depicted as a kind of Penelope to Monk's Odysseus, tries to keep some kind of order during an unruly rent party. In his debut novel, Lombardo, who flashes impressive stylistic chops throughout, seems to be aiming for his own jazz-inflected version of a Joycean "night town" ramble infused with history, urban legend, dark comedy, and mythological tropes. Sometimes he gets carried away, though. If, for instance, Edward R. Murrow was really doing a CBS newscast on TV three months after he died and four years after he quit the network, then the novel really is a hallucination trumping actual history.Maybe Lombardo's hip-shooting imagery is part of the point he's making: history as a nightmare from which these characters are trying to awake. And nothing in a nightmare is supposed to make sense.