A breathtaking free fall into the long-buried (and fictional) history of a utopian era in American lighter-than-air travel, as told by its death-defying, aero-acrobatic heroes.
"Foster and Romo's 'real fake dream' of the future-past history of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines is a superb and loving phantasmagoria that gobbles up real histories for breakfast and spits out the seeds. It has everything you could wish for, academic satire, crazy sculpture in the desert, sex, violence, falafel, graffiti, and zeppelin chase scenes." – Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn
In the early years of the twentieth-century, the use of airships known as dirigibles—some as large as one thousand feet long—was being promulgated in Southern California by a semi-clandestine lighter-than-air movement. Groups like the East LA Balloon Club and the Bessie Coleman Aero Club were hard at work to revolutionize travel, with an aim to literally lift oppressed people out of racism and poverty.
ELADATL tells the story of this little-known period of American air travel in a series of overlapping narratives told by key figures, accompanied by a number of historic photographs and recently discovered artifacts, with appendices provided to fill in the missing links. The story of the rise and fall of this ill-fated airship movement investigates its long-buried history, replete with heroes, villains, and moments of astonishing derring-do and terrifying disaster.
Written and presented as an "actual history of a fictional company," this surrealist, experimental novel is a tour de force of politicized fantastic fiction, a work of hybrid art-making distilled into a truly original literary form. Developed over a ten-year period of collaborations, community interventions, and staged performances, ELADATL is a hilarious send-up of academic histories, mainstream narratives, and any traditional notions of the time-space continuum.
Praise for ELADATL
"ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines
is one of the wildest, most creative and deeply-cutting novels I've read in years, a genuine piece of newness in both content and form. Sesshu Foster and Arturo Romo have managed, from the mind-bending perch of alternate time and space, to construct a perfect lookout from which to view the deranged spectacle of late-capitalism America. To wade through this surreal narrative archeology—composed of everything from oral histories to inspirational posters to lunch menus—is to experience, in the finest sense, literature as fever dream."—Omar El Akkad, author of American War: A Novel
"Visionary, hilarious, anarchic, this assemblage of breakneck dialog, blisteringly brilliant film criticism, bureaucratic documents, revolutionary chatter, mass transit, and fake dreams of the secret police, is the counterfactual novel to beat all counterfactual novels . . . Sesshu Foster and Arturo Romo float high above the the landlubbing bulk of American fiction."—Mark Doten, author of Trump Sky Alpha
"Forget the zombie apocalypse, forget priapic gun-crazy Hollywood dystopias—all these troubled times require is an economy ticket on the East L.A. Dirigible Air Transport Lines. Enter the isotherm with Foster and Romo and cruise high over the trashed and blasted landscapes of imperial decay. ELADATL is more than a novel—it's the secret history of the secret history, the map they always kept hidden, a dream inside a dream of a dream. Hilarious and prophetic and profound, truer than truth, and realer than all realities currently available for purchase, ELADATL is strong medicine against the erasures of history, a mega-vitamin for struggles yet to come. This book combats despair."—Ben Ehrenreich, author of Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time
"Hold this infra-surreal, no-surreal, under-realm account (in gyroscopic fashion and thru various sightings re-dacted and questionable dialogues, voice pepperings) of our fast approaching Kaliyuga. Multiple reincarnated figures appear (Lee Harvey Oswald, Tina Lerma, and Elmer Fudd, CIA Agent). Not to mention truish photos of things. Live things! Be mindful of the encyclopedic plethoras aimed at your pineal glands. Woe are those that are not privy to the East LA Dirigible Air Transport Lines (buzzing over you at this very critical moment in our wild lives)—here is the evidence in your febrile hands. Power, Culture, Text, Bhaktin, are in a clash Hip-Hop—in a Marvin Gaye 'What's going on?' As stated in these investigations: 'The Poet of the Universe will stand on her or his balcony as night falls and consider her or his options.' Mind-crushing consciousness blasting artefactos of our dissolving propellers. Viva Sesshu Foster! I bow to you!"—Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the USA, 2015-2017
"Plunge upward into ELADATL's phantasmagoric skies, where Los Angeles outsiders fly pirate dirigibles to legendary cities built of trash. This hip, avant, alternate history wriggles into and out of all ordinariness, transforming oppression into adventure and you, oh fortunate reader, into a witness of the glorious exploits of Swirling Alhambra and his rebel cohort. Get ready to leave the status quo behind and soar beyond the probable to the possible, your brain buoyed by this book's heady mix of fear and joy and outraged delight."—Nisi Shawl, author of Everfair: A Novel
"Sesshu Foster's second novel ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines is not some preciously honed theoretical tale scripted as an abstracted warriors' syllabus, but instead, it gives a powerful account of a curious quotidian revolt that accompanied the East LA Balloon Club and the Bessie Coleman Aero Club rife with the contradiction that singed their arcane thriving. This novel not only explores the actual quest for physical elevation, but, more significantly, with the complication of inner elevation, attempting to rise above a circumstance studded with racism and looming financial debacle. Mr. Foster's novel magically inscribes the trenchant character of an opaque and transitional zeitgeist."—Will Alexander, author of Kaleidoscope Omniscience
"Sesshu Foster and Arturo Ernesto Romo co-pilot the ELADATL phantasmagoric journey across historic/imagined skies with magnificent views of a post-industrial East Los Angeles wasteland that is dotted with cinematic/cultural phantoms: Raquel Welch, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Anthony Quinn, and Brown Berets who invoke the mantra, 'Don't believe the fake dreams of the secret police.' Human skin, dirigible skin, chorizo skins, are simultaneously celebrated as art while being attacked by Zeppelin gunships. ELADATL lifts the reader into a free intellectual airspace where airships of new thinking reign."—Harry Gamboa Jr., author of Urban Exile: Collected Writings of Harry Gamboa Jr.
"'The strange future of war over Los Angeles, zeppelins versus dirigibles . . . ' Sesshu Foster and Arturo Ernesto Romo capture the uncapturable. 'Experience levitation and death,' 'attune your cellular vibrations to the frequency of Star Beings,' 'the merciless winds of the human heart,' 'the Atmospheric Trash Vortex.' Who is the I here? 'The welcoming hosts at the front door, you want to look inside?' The nightmare does not erase the comedy. 'The CIA behind the million faces, hair and fingernails still growing.' 'Sign your sorrow over . . . they're taking everything; let's give it to them, the sober whisky of Love.' Unforgetable read. 'Isn't someone in charge?'"—Sharon Doubiago, author of My Beard: Memoir Stories
"A fierce, bittersweet, and hilarious antidote to our increasingly deracinated personhoods and neighborhoods, ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines inspires us to hold our ground in a here and now that includes futures and pasts we both know and can barely imagine. Set against the absence of Hollywood—that perfect hierarchical structure that occludes most of the actual labor that goes into making the finished product—Sesshu Foster and Arturo Romo take us through the hood and under the hood while celebrating and mourning the intimacy of social life in all its vicissitudes. Along the way, our fearless guides introduce us to the living politics of a particular place whose accumulated experience reverberates throughout the cosmos."—Ammiel Alcalay, Founder and General Editor of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative