Article 11

Article 11 - Street-wise in L.A. Literature: A Cultural...

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Street-wise in L.A. Literature: A Cultural Geography (Ubi Sunt? Where Are They) Raymond Chandler, Little Sister (1949): "I used to like this town," I said, just to be saying something and not to be thinking too hard. "A long time ago. There were trees along Wilshire Boulevard. Beverly Hills was a country town. Westwood was bare hills and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars and not takers. Hollywood was a bunch of frame houses on the interurban line. Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but goodhearted and peaceful. It had the climate they just yap about now. People used to sleep on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America. It wasn't that, but it wasn't a neon-lighted slum either." We crossed La Cienega and went into the curve of the Strip. The Dancers was a blaze of light. The place was packed. The parking lot was like ants on a piece of overripe fruit. "Now we get characters like this Steelgrave owning restaurants. We get guys like that fat boy that bawled me out back there. We've got big money, the sharp shooters, the percentage workers, the fast-dollar boys, the hoodlums out of New York and Chicago and Detroit--and Cleveland. We've got the flash restaurants and night clubs they run, and the hotels and apartment houses they own, and the grifters and con men and female bandits that live in them. The luxury trades, the pansy decorators, the Lesbian dress designers, the riffraff of a big hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup. Out in the fancy suburbs dear old Dad is reading the sports page in front of a picture window, with his shoes off, thinking he is high class because he has a three-car garage. Mom is in front of her princess dresser trying to paint the suitcases out from under her eyes. And Junior is clamped onto the telephone calling up a succession of high school girls that talk pigeon English and carry contraceptives in their make-up kit." "It is the same in all big cities, amigo." "Real cities have something else, some individual bony structure under the muck. Los Angeles has Hollywood--and hates it. It ought to consider itself damn lucky. Without Hollywood it would be a mail -order city. Everything in the catalogue you could get better somewhere else." Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays (1970): Maria drove the freeway. ...Once she was on the freeway and had maneuvered her way to a fast lane she turned on the radio at high volume and she drove. She drove down the San Diego to the Harbor, the Harbor up to the Hollywood, the Hollywood to the Golden State, the Santa Monica, the Santa Ana, the Pasadena, the Ventura. She drove as a riverman runs the river, every day more attuned to its currents, its deceptions, and just as
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a riverman feels the pull of the rapids in the lull between sleeping and waking, so Maria lay at night in the still of Beverly Hills and saw the great signs soar overhead at seventy miles an hour, Normandie 1/4 Vermont 3/4 Harbor Fwy 1. Again she returned to an
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Article 11 - Street-wise in L.A. Literature: A Cultural...

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