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Postcard Rex: After/Image
Capturing the most uncapturable city
I’ve been reading a lot of books that evoke specific periods and places lately: 1830s New York, turn-of-the-century St. Louis, pre- and post-war Britain. Fortunately or unfortunately, I live in none of those times or places, so I thought it was about time I recommended some Los Angeles reads.
After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame, Lynell George
LA is not encompassable the way certain cities—say, an island like New York—are. Yes, each New York neighborhood and borough has its own world, its own vibe, but LA is similarly myriad and mosaic and more frequently disconnected by our main methods of transit. Sitting in traffic in a car is not the same as being held up on the tube or subway for track work, where you feel part of the frustrated camaraderie of a group of strangers rather than an isolated, individual rage. There are as many LAs are there are lives here, and most books about LA capture only a fraction of that sensibility. Lynell George’s essays do the best job I’ve found so far of reflecting as much of that mosaic as possible—its history, its patchwork, its fill-in-the-metaphor to describe a city so shifting and palimpsestic. Her emotive and lovely prose reflects what it’s actually like to live here, not just the Hollywood set version of the city.
If you like it
Dear Los Angeles (edited by David Kipen) is an excellent compendium of extracts from LA’s written and archived history; the collection of voices goes a long way towards capturing the diversity of LA and its stories, from early settlers to recognizable writers and celebrities to everyday diaries. Even in short selections, the personalities leap off the page and coalesce into the sense of what (or rather, who) comprises LA.
If you don’t
If you’re looking for LA in fiction, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout is one of the funniest books I’ve read; a satire about the boundaries of race, poverty, and the city itself.
A deeply subjective Los Angeles reading list—you’ll find most of the usual suspects but no Bukowski, simply because I haven’t read any, and probably many other glaring omissions. I’d love to hear what your LA-evocative book recs are!
Things I’ve written lately:
Art, fashion, travel, queerness, gin
How Lee Alexander McQueen Spun History into Fantasy, Hyperallergic
Queer Advocates Making a More Inclusive City, Park City Magazine
Utah Gins You Should Know, Park City Magazine
Waves of Stone Pottery profile, Park City Magazine
Book Review: Portrait of a Thief, Artillery