Nell Zink talks about Southern California novel ‘Avalon’ and success after years of hard, unrewarding work

As “Avalon” opens, Bran, the young woman at the heart of Nell Zink’s coming-of-age story, sprawls on a grassy Southern California hillside and imagines that the “smear of moonlight” before her leads to Avalon.

Not the town on Santa Catalina Island, though a few paragraphs later she recalls a childhood trip to the island off the Southern California coast, one of her few half-good memories of life before her mother abandoned her.

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For Bran, it’s the isle of Arthurian legend, a place of beauty and love beyond the mists that obscure it from the disappointments and disorder of her real life.

“Because life itself, reality, is a bit dystopian,” Zink says of Bran’s dreams on a video call from her home an hour outside of Berlin, Germany.

“The alternative, it doesn’t have to be high fantasy,” she says of Bran’s fondness for books such as T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” which tells of King Arthur and Avalon. “When you think about it, something like Christian myth, or a lot of the things people say.

“That, actually, this isn’t all there is. There’s a parallel universe that’s well organized, worthwhile, just, fair and beautiful.

“And it tends to be a bit fantastic.”

Character building

In “Avalon,” Bran’s mother leaves her with an extended family of not-quite-relatives who run a sketchy landscaping business by day and party with their motorcycle gang pals by night.

She works all day for no pay in the nurseries beneath a power line right-of-way in Torrance and sleeps in a lean-to outside the family’s house at night.

It’s a difficult life, though more darkly comedic than grim in Zell’s telling. Bran finds friends among the fellow misfits of the high school literary magazine, including her best friend Jay, whose deluded belief in …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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