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A Bit of ‘Santa Monica’ in Orange County

Andrew Tonkovich, a lecturer in the English Department, presented two readers from the spring 2009 edition of the Santa Monica Review at the UC Irvine Bookstore on Thursday.

Tonkovich, who served as the editor of the publication, gave a brief presentation and acknowledged some students from his Writing 39B class. Yet, perhaps the real stars of the event were the two readers that Tonkovich brought in to present their selections from the collection.

Although both are relative upstarts in the field of publishing, judging by Tonkovich’s introduction of writer Emily Quinlan alone, they both may have much more to offer before all is said and done.

“[Before this publication] I had not met nor ever even heard of [Quinlan]. Her lovely, funny, smart and elegant [work] was sent to me, then it spoke up and then it danced around, and so I accepted the short story as would any editor with his or her head on straight,” Tonkovich said.

Quinlan, who is a Masters in Fine Arts student in the English Department at UCI, began her presentation with what first appeared to be merely an uneasy joke about preparing for the event.

“I was so nervous that I used a hot tool on my hair, but it didn’t go the way that I wanted it to … I thought that it would calm me down for some reason,” Quinlan said.

As Quinlan launched into her reading, this remark tied into her character Barb in her short story, “The Green Belt.” Similar to Quinlan, Barb starts off the story by running into a problem with her hair. However, rather than fixing her hair up the wrong way, Barb burns her eyebrows off as she is cooking chicken.

As “The Green Belt” unfolds, it tells the story of not only Barb, but an ensemble cast of characters. Working as the third-person omnipotent narrator, Quinlan discusses their actions and insights, which range from boredom to death.

The next presenter, Michael Jaime-Becerra, was a slightly older hand in the literary world than Quinlan. Some of his early work was first published in 1996 in a collection entitled “Look Back and Laugh.” In 2004, he saw perhaps his greatest success thus far with “Every Night is Ladies’ Night,” a collection of stories set in his hometown of El Monte, CA.

Yet, as Jaime-Becerra went on to state, he was not always confident in his work.

“For a long time I was very nervous … so just to see my name on the back cover … it means a lot to me,” Jaime-Becerra said.

Jaime-Becerra read his story “Joyce, Summer 1970,” which discusses the title character’s experience in losing her virginity. Joyce’s tale is not a glamorous one.

The story begins in the Tick Tock Motor Court in Garden Grove. It is then not long before she is talked into giving herself over to Freddy Dominguez, a less-than-sympathetic character who never calls her after they first have sex. However, the story does not only focus on her loss.

Because she knows that her parents would be disappointed, Joyce conceals her guilt from them throughout the story. However, through focusing on how Joyce perceives herself, Jaime-Becerra is able to focus in on a feeling of cheapness. Rather than condemning his character, Jaime-Becerra brings out how she identifies that she could be perceived as cheap and then how she goes about solving the problem.

The Santa Monica Review is a biannual publication that has been released on the West Coast since 1988. Copies of the journal can be purchased at the UCI Bookstore. More information can be found by visiting the Santa Monica Review’s Web site located at