L.A. lit

The very term might seem like an oxymoron to some people, but Adam Hirsch deconstructs the myth in this Slate article, where he argues that L.A.’s lit image is the creation of non-indigenous writers:
“Again and again, writers with the briefest experience of Los Angeles use it as a blank screen on which to project their own fantasies, prophecies, and fears. For Nathanael West in The Day of the Locust, it was famously a “dream dump,” a “Sargasso of the imagination” in which civilization is reduced to “plaster, canvas, lath and paint.” For Truman Capote, it was a nightmare city where “a crack in the wall, which might somewhere else have charm, only strikes an ugly note prophesying doom.” And those are some of the milder opinions. (…)
What did Los Angeles do to deserve all this? Writing Los Angeles makes the answer clear: Although it is the second-largest city in America, in the literary imagination it is still a colony. Instead of speaking for itself, the city is spoken about.”
Read L.A. Without a Map.


One Response to “L.A. lit”

  1. Jim Says:

    I speak not as an Angeleno, but as a native and budding poet (at fifty) of San Diego, a place even more uncharted than mapless L.A. My habitat doesn’t even get spoken about; it has only made it to “setting” in the literary lingo, despite its three million inhabitants (ten with Tijuana), a rich cultural, natural, and historical deversity, and cutting edge tech environment. But this is changing, and I think it started about the time “postmodernism” became a label and died.
    But like L.A., San Diego will find its literary voice when it becomes truly post-postmodern and, as Kirsch notes, “resolutely ignore(s) the issue of authenticity.” When we become comfortable (or at least when the literary leading lights become comfortable) with our mushy roots, we become authentic artists, and that’s what is happening right now. Writers like Mike Davis help. Musicians like Manu Chao help. Bloggers like Moorish Girl really help.

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