With its burgers and fried chicken sandwiches, Locol is recognizably a fast-food restaurant, despite the absence of counter-service standards like soda and French fries. But the greasy paper wrapper of the Locol "cheeseburg" is deceptive. The patty is not all beef, as other chains may proudly advertise: Thirty percent of it is composed of cooked grains and tofu. It’s served on a whole-grain bun leavened with koji, the fermentation culture used to make sake, soy sauce, and miso, which is designed to reproduce the soft texture of white bread without sacrificing nutritional density. The dishes served are punctuated with various Korean and Mexican touches, like breakfast sandwiches loaded with carnitas, or a noodle bowl flavored with ginger and lime.
The menu — and the mission — of Locol didn’t come out of nowhere. Patterson had started the Cooking Project, which teaches kids in poor Bay Area neighborhoods culinary skills, in 2013, a few months before hearing Choi’s impassioned speech at MAD. And Choi, whose Kogi trucks have fed a broader demographic and geographic swath of Los Angeles than practically any other restaurant brand in the city, had spent years laying the groundwork for his latest turn as a messianic populist. His Kogi trucks "built the muscle" for the work of launching Locol, Choi told me. "Because I was feeding people everywhere. It didn’t matter — there was no discrimination. We would just post up and feed everyone for two dollars."
It seems that King was taking lessons from himself when he wrote It. Indeed, he called the novel “the summation of everything I have learned and done in my whole life to this point”. Those references and nods are clear to King’s Constant Readers (the name he gives to his fans): for It’s main narrative thrust, it almost seemed as if he looked at the teenage friendships he’d written in 1982’s The Body (later adapted into film as Stand By Me) and took the basic setup of that book, deciding to push it further. What if there’s a group of friends who find something? What if it’s something they have to keep as a secret, something which deeply affects their lives – not just as children, but as adults as well? Fears aren’t something, King realised, that are confined to us as children. Those same terrifying thoughts often rear their heads in our adult lives, often manifesting in vastly different, far more complicated ways.
Though compact, the book ranges widely in time and setting to trace the effects of war — primarily the Vietnam conflict — on several generations of a New Orleans family. Butler’s Faulknerian shuttling back and forth across the decades has less to do with literary pyrotechnics than with cutting to the chase. “Perfume River” hits its marks with a high-stakes intensity.
It’s hard to know whether Old Jack actually existed. (Based on a True Story* is honest about its various dishonesties, from its title to its copyright page note clarifying that “[t]he stories in this memory begin with the author’s recollection of events, which is – by his own admission – spotty,” to the obviously made-up sections inserted throughout (such as the one in which Macdonald cheats the devil in a wager for his mortal soul), to italicized interjections from an imaginary ghostwriter, who in time begins battling for control over the narrative of the memoir itself. But whether he’s real, a product of Macdonald’s rambling imagination, or a bit of both, it’s obvious that Old Jack is a useful figure in understanding Norm Macdonald.
I'd have loved to see Vásquez delve deeper into some of the consequences of art imitating life, where, in his words, "opinions have their effects." But Reputations is a powerful, concentrated achievement. It makes clear that our memories, and even the things we've forgotten, can come back to haunt us and make us question the true cost of our actions.