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Los Angeles Stories (City Lights Noir) Paperback – October 4, 2011
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"The stories of Ry Cooder are a lot like his music: stately, precise, well constructed; they grab you by the throat, quietly, and never let go. . . . Cooder is a passionate historian of Los Angeles, curating its small joys and predilections, its cultural pratfalls and senseless tragedies. . . . Los Angeles Stories is an unusual book, old-fashioned but not out of fashion. Its most beautiful quality is the genuine pathos, conveyed with tact and skill, for a city that has vanished, that has always been vanishing."--Andrew J. Khaled Madigan, The Iowa Review
"Cooder's Los Angeles Stories are noir-infused, glamour-free portraits of working class loners, drifters, bums, musicians (both real and fictional), and numerous other fringe types. Each speaks with his or her own individuated, idiom-riddled (but cliché-free) patois." Casey Burchby, LA Weekly
""There is a feeling in the stories, as in much of his music, that something is being documented; that voices, and personal histories, are being preserved not for posterity, but against annihilation by some overriding and corrupted power." C.P. Heiser, LA Review of Books
"While some of the stories focus on those who end up in LA, Cooder’s focus in this book is mainly about those who have called LA home for most of their lives. The way Cooder describes the neighborhoods in LA -- the homes and the working class -- really paints a picture that doesn’t just give you an idea of what it was like; rather, he brings these images to life, especially if you live in or visit LA today." --Verbicide Magazine
". . . Ryland Peter Cooder ventures into new territory with his first collection of linked shortly stories, entitled (not surprisingly) Los Angeles Stories (City Lights) . . . Eight stories are set in post World War II Los Angeles intermingling the kinds of characters and narratives that Cooder has put to good use in his songs blue collar workers, small time criminals and all kinds of fauna to be found in the barely visible underclass." --Robert Birnbaum, "Our Man in Boston"
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Top Customer Reviews
These last two lines sum up the motivation that lies with the numerous characters that musician Ry Cooder offers up in his new collection of short stories. While the stories are nominally linked, the variety is enormous: mariachi players, park prophets, backalley dentists, tailors, and disc jockeys are all introduced in their native milieu. Set in the first half of the twentieth century, these stories are based on the inner life of the inner city.
This is not postcard or travel agency Los Angeles; there is no glamour or celebrities to dress it up. Even the weather doesn't seem to cooperate with stereotype: fog and rain are as frequent as bar brawls. The characters are the faceless many that work off the books, just trying to get by while the city appears as a predatory character, breathing and pulsing, foiling any attempts at the good life.
The collection is also an excellent geography text to significant Los Angeles locations--Griffith Park, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Union Station, Bunker Hill, and Hollenbeck Park all serve as backdrops, and Cooder seems to know the streets and back alleys very well. Cocktail bars and bowling alleys are among the seedy gathering places of the working class and small time criminals that Cooder writes about and who occasionally cross tracks with each other.
My favorite was "Who do you know that I don't?" set in 1949, wherein a tailor to the mariachi clientele attempts to solve the murder of a popular jazz musician, Johnny Mumford. Cooder creates a world of layaway payments, shiny and finned cars, and musicians desperate to wear a good suit but not eager to pay.Read more ›
You know how some writers will use setting as a backdrop to put behind the characters in their story? In a weird way, many of these stories do almost the opposite: the characters and story serve as the backdrop to setting.
Each of these stories has a year listed under the title, spanning from 1940 to 1958, and Cooder ranges all over southern California, from Santa Monica to East LA, from downtown to Palmdale/Antelope Valley. Street names, building names, product names and references to period songs and performers sometimes threaten to overwhelm the somewhat roughly-drawn characters... and real-life musicians enter into almost every story: from Korla Pandit to Billy Tipton, from Charlie Parker to Merle Travis to John Lee Hooker... sometimes playing a key role.
Not great literature and not aspiring to be (I hope), these 8 stories were just dandy as a gritty, pulpy, R-rated diversion, and more so because of my prior knowledge of at least some of the areas and musicians (a wink to Cooder for bringing Paul Bigsby into both the Merle Travis story and the last story in very different ways). I would rate this 3.5 stars and hope his next effort focuses more on clear-headed storytelling and less on showing us how much he knows about the seedy underbelly of mid-20th century Los Angeles.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gritty stories from a bygone era, with musical references to be expected from Ry the talented guitarist and ethnomusicologist.Published 8 months ago by aaron z childs
Who knew? Cooder writes gritty, stories that unfold in your mind like a classic noir movie. He writes as good as he plays.Published 13 months ago by Ian Gray
The storyline twists through the city and touches several characters and their lives. One feels a part of the journey as if living the day to day progression as each story unfolds.Published 14 months ago by Joe D
A very enjoyable read from arguably the finest musician of our generation ( I will lay my cards on the table : I have been a fan since the 1970s and have just about every album RC... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Adrian Baron
Pretty kool to read the references to his California trio records. Also good references to the Los Angeles that's mostly disappeared.Published 17 months ago by Tim D. Maitland
If you already like Ry Cooder and are not immune to the charms of film noir/Raymond Chandler this book is really worth your consideration. Read morePublished 17 months ago by MrSid