February 7, 2012

Someone's selling all your heroes
And it seems such a shame



Sanja Iveković, Paper Women, 1976–77

* From an interview of James Ellroy:

INTERVIEWER

You were away from Los Angeles for twenty-five years. Why’d you come back?

JAMES ELLROY

One reason: Cherchez la femme. I chased women to suburban New York, suburban Connecticut, Kansas City, Carmel, and San Francisco. But I ran out of places, and I ran out of women, so I ended up back here.

INTERVIEWER

Did you miss the city?

ELLROY

While I was away, the Los Angeles of my past accreted in my mind, developing its own power. Early on in my career I believed that in order to write about LA, I had to stay out of it entirely. But when I moved back, I realized that LA then lives in my blood. LA now does not.

INTERVIEWER

What’s wrong with LA now?

ELLROY

I fear the sloth, the disorder, and the moral depravity. It makes me want to hole up in my pad for days on end.

INTERVIEWER

And what about the LA of the fifties has a hold on you?

ELLROY

A lot of it is simple biography. I lived here, so I was obsessed with my immediate environment. I am from Los Angeles truly, immutably. It’s the first thing you get in any author’s note: James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. I was hatched in the film-noir epicenter, at the height of the film-noir era. My parents and I lived near Hollywood. My father and mother had a tenuous connection to the film business. They were both uncommonly good-looking, which may be a hallmark of LA arrivistes, and they were of that generation of migrants who came because they were very poor and LA was a beautiful place.

I grew up in a different world, a different America. You didn’t have to make a lot of dough to keep a roof over your head. There was a calmness that I recall too. I learned to amuse myself. I liked to read. I liked to look out the window.

It’s rare for me to speak about LA epigrammatically. I don’t view it as a strange place, I don’t view it as a hot-pot of multiculturalism or weird sexuality. I have never studied it formally. There are big swathes of LA that I don’t even know my way around today. I’m not quite sure how you get to Torrance, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach. I don’t know LA on a valid historical level at all. But I have assimilated it in a deeper way. I had lived here for so long that when it became time to exploit my memory of the distant past, it was easy.

Whatever power my books have derives from the fact that they are utterly steeped in the eras that I describe. LA of that period is mine and nobody else’s. If you wrote about this period before me, I have taken it away from you.

* John Tranter: Why is Modern Poetry So Difficult.

* "Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed." -- Herman Melville

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Failure Notice

"Remote host said: 550 #5.1.0 Address rejected"

Have tried to send you an email a couple of times but was denied. Don't know whether your email is malfunctioning or you've blocked my address. Anyways, here's what I tried to send.

Subject: Book - Mr g by Alan Lightman

Body of Text: Read this over the weekend. Very enjoyable. Recommend.

Allan Smithee

1:07 PM  

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