paper1 - p. 1 Professor Gustafson Los Angeles: The Fiction...

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p. 1 Professor Gustafson Los Angeles: The Fiction 9/16/05 I. Preface When I first arrived at USC’s campus in the fall of 2004, I brought with me not only enough suitcases to fill a small African country, but also many preconceived notions regarding what life in Los Angeles would be like. Up to that point, most of my knowledge of Los Angeles came from the teenage trinity of media sources: magazines, TV, and movies. I envisioned Sunset Boulevard with its endless line of palm trees waving gently in the afternoon breeze. I imagined flash, glitz, glamour and an extreme obsession with the superficial. I imagined skyscraper upon skyscraper cutting into the smoggy sky. I imagined a grotesque perversion of my previous definition of a “highway,” into a new definition that translates to my old notion of a parking lot. Essentially, I expected a city apart from any I had ever experienced. I have now been in Los Angeles for over a year. My perspective on Los Angeles has definitely changed since my arrival. I don’t pretend to know everything about Los Angeles; the city is so inconceivably expansive that I don’t think anyone could truly have a grasp on all the ins and outs of the city within a lifetime. I am still a Los Angeles rookie in many ways: I take the freeways to go everywhere (drastically increasing my transit time and blood pressure), still gawk at the Hollywood sign, and even take trips to Beverly Hills just to earn the right to casually tell friends back home: “ah…yeah…went to Beverly Hills today, you know, the usual.” However, despites these vestiges of newness, my preconceived notions about the city have evolved. For one, I have found that Los Angeles is not as different from other major cities as it is billed to be. I never feel dwarfed by the immensity of Los Angeles, because the
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p. 2 city is structured around low-density, single family homes. Los Angeles does not feel like a huge metropolis, but rather like the non-unique parts of other American cities, including my hometown of New Orleans. Carey MacWilliams aptly described this phenomenon in asserting that “Los Angeles [is] a collection of suburbs in search of a city.” Secondly, I have come to the conclusion that my initial notion of Los Angeles as superficial and shallow, with an emphasis on style over substance, is inaccurate. Citizens of Los Angeles have the same hopes, fears, and desires that other Americans do. This city is not “500 miles wide, and two inches deep.” Other major cities are lauded for the richness of their tradition (Boston, New York, etc.), yet their residents are no more culturally rich than the residents of L.A. Los Angeles even has an advantage over these other major cities due to its racial diversity, which provides a unique context for literary exploration.
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This note was uploaded on 09/28/2008 for the course ARTL 101 taught by Professor Gustafson during the Summer '08 term at USC.

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paper1 - p. 1 Professor Gustafson Los Angeles: The Fiction...

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