Wednesday, February 22, 2012

See Los Angeles! Read a Novel!

If Levar Burton has taught me anything, it's that when I pick up a book, "I can go anywhere." If you're an intrepid mental traveler like me, you probably enjoy trotting across the globe with our See The World series. It’s been a little while since we took you to Venice. So, in honor of the upcoming Oscars weekend, we thought we’d pass along three great tickets to the City of Angels:

Ask the Dust, by John Fante for a taste of the by-gone, Depression-Era LA:
“And so I was down on Fifth and Olive, where the big street cars chewed your ears with their noise, and the smell of gasoline made the sight of the palm trees seem sad, and the black pavement still wet from the fog of the night before… …Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I come to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.”

The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy for a hard-boiled, 1940s, noir police detective tale :
"Warrants was local celebrity as a cop. Warrants was plain-clothes with a coat and tie, romance and a mileage per diem on your civilian car. Warrants was going after the real bad guys and not rousting winos and wienie wagers in front of the Midnight Mission. Warrants was working in the DA’s office with one foot in the Detective Bureau, and late dinners with Mayor Bowron when he was waxing effusive and wanted to hear war stories. 
"Thinking about it started to hurt. I went down to the garage and hit the speed bag until my arms cramped. 
"Over the next few weeks I worked a radio car beat near the northern border of the division. I was breaking in a fat-mouthed rookie named Sidwell, a kid just off a three-year MP stint in the Canal Zone. He hung on my every word with the slavish tenacity of a lapdog, and was so enamored of civilian police work that he took to sticking around the station after our end of tour, bulshitting with the jailers, snapping towels at the wanted posters in the locker room, generally creating a nuisance until someone told him to go home."

Lightning Field, by Dana Spiotta for a look at modern-day LA:
"For the past two hours she had done the unthinkable, the violate: she walked. First through the Vista Del Mar neighborhood of old tiny 1920s bungalows, sort of Spanish colonial with odd Moorish and Eastern flourishes, stuccoes and surrounded by palm trees, so arranged and modern they seemed carved in Bakelite. Car-free, in summer ballet flats, the only thing besides gardeners and children, Mina walked along curbs and looked through interior-lit windows, the fading dusk light affording anonymity, the TVs and stereos and nearly audible conversations providing a schizoid soundtrack- strange juxtapositions of familiar radio sounds with other people’s lives at an audio glance. Sometimes just a name, spoken and unanswered, hung in the air, or whole arguments at high volume. She could pause and listen for hours to fragments of conversations about dinner or car keys or mail.
"She had walked the long way from Max’s apartment in the Hills, then headed down Gower past Sunset and Santa Monica. The streets had already thickened with homebound cars, five o’clock sliding into six o’clock, a special segue time that was once called, by  someone, somewhere, the cocktail hour."


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