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Writing Los Angeles: a Literary Anthology (Library of America) Hardcover – September 30, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

"The story of Los Angeles has always been, on the most basic level, the story of the interaction between civilization and nature an idiosyncratic hybrid of the urban and the elemental." The people, land, motion picture industry, and desert ecosystem and their complex interconnections form the foundation of this anthology. Together the works trace the history of Los Angeles with good writing. Editor Ulin, who frequently contributes to the Los Angeles Times and recently edited an anthology of contemporary Los Angeles poetry and prose, Another City, collects essays and excerpts from fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by over 70 writers as diverse as Mary Austin, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Bertolt Brecht, Norman Mailer, and Joan Didion. Arranged chronologically, each selection includes a brief biography of the author that establishes his or her credentials for knowing Los Angeles at a particular time in its development. Recommended for all public libraries and academic libraries that collect writing about place. Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Los Angeles is not a city easily categorized. It's a dream factory and a nightmare landscape, an urban creation teetering on the brink of natural disaster, eternally self-renewing and all but used up. The brilliance of this anthology is in the editor's determination to showcase as many facets of L.A. as possible, warts, beauty marks, and all. In nearly 900 pages, editor Ulin presents excerpts from novels and short stories, poems, diary entries, and newspaper and magazine articles. The time span ranges from Helen Hunt Jackson's influential 1884 novel about Los Angeles' mission era, Ramona, to works from the 1990s, including D. J. Waldie's social history, Holy Land, and William T. Vollman's examination of the 1992 L.A. riots, The Atlas, both published in 1996. In between are selections from such writers as H. L. Mencken, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, and Tom Wolfe. And, of course, there is the opening of Raymond Chandler's Red Wind, about a hot L.A. night spiked with a Santa Ana wind: "Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks." Ulin's exemplary introduction delineates the history of L.A., reflects on what the city represents in popular culture, and analyzes the kind of writing L.A. has produced, with particular emphasis on noir, that most L.A. of forms. Each selection carries a brief, insightful introduction of its own. A stunning collection and a wonderful addition to the Library of America. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America
  • Hardcover: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; First Edition edition (September 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931082278
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931082273
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"definitive" is a an overused adjective... but this volume is indeed just that. ulin's winning (and sometimes surprising) selection of material captures the breadth and depth of a literary milieu artfully and evenhandledly. (ulin must be uniquely well read and/or uniquely familiar with his material - some of his choices, e.g. robert towne's intro to chinatown screenplay, are fun just to consider in a potentially crusty dusty Lirbrary of America anthology). forget the heavy intellectual (and physical!) weight of this tome -- this is no door stop or boat anchor, its a joyous sojourn in the searing sun. brevity, clarity and wit!
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Format: Hardcover
Los Angeles has always meant/will always be/is many things to many people. Some write it off as the City of Pilates-loving, Yoga meditating, Chai Tea Consuming Crack Pots. Well, yes...it is that and so much more as exemplified in the mind expanding, colossally comprehensive, edited by David Ulin: "Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology." That so many important writers have deemed Los Angeles as appropriate subject matter, both positive and negative, only supports the notion that the City of the Angels "gets" to everyone who comes in contact with it. Some like Faulkner and Fitzgerald came to Hollywood late in their careers and left disillusioned to say the least while Nathanael West and James M. Cain thrived and wrote some of their best stuff here.
"Writing Los Angeles" is exhaustively researched and some of the expected writers are represented here: Cain, West, Ellroy, Didion but what of Simone De Beauvoir and Umberto Eco? Probably the most important thing Ulin has done is introduce us to SoCal writers we didn't know or of whom we've forgotten: D.J. Waldie or Ruben Martinez, for example.
If nothing else, Ulin has proven that Los Angeles is fertile ground for the creation of writing of the highest order. And for this, we Los Angelenos are forever in his debt.
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Format: Hardcover
Compiled and edited by David L. Ulin, Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology is a unique and diverse collection of fiction, poetry, essays, journalism, diaries, and more, contributed by over seventy writers (ranging from William Faulkner, M.F.K. Fisher, and Bertolt Brecht, to Ray Bradbury, Norman Mailer, and Tom Wolfe), and showcasing the "City of Angels". Through varied eyes, the teeming and diverse West Coast metropolis manifests its best and its worst during its eventful history as Writing Los Angeles explores a wide range of issues and events ranging from the post World War I economic boom to recent and nationally televised violence. A very highly recommended compendium of artistic, emotional, severe, gritty, nostalgic, and clear-eyed literary pieces, Writing Los Angeles vividly brings a city and its people to life throughout the generations.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I used it this year for a course in American lit and style analysis. Diverse voices covering the complete span of the history of the city allows you to complement other texts in considering theme and style. We read the Mailer and Kerouac pieces back to back, for example. Nice anchor for the syllabus.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've never been a literary anthology person. I'm not one for short stories or excerpts. But, I've been reading up on LA history to include its literary past, so Writing Los Angeles seemed a perfect match. And, for the most part it was. In near-chronological order, Writing Los Angeles provides a unique window through which LA, in all its manifestations, comes alive. Some of these manifestations are more compelling than others. I personally find the first half of LA's 20th century more interesting. Later eras and aspects thereof, not so much. But, LA is a complex and ever-changing menagerie and an anthologist certainly needs to stay true to his source. Ulin does a fine job of editing, even if my tastes don't jive with his full range of selections.

If there is a downside to this effort, it is length. I prefer weighty tomes, but I found Writing Los Angeles somewhat of a slog through the last quarter or so of its pages. No doubt, this is partially a result of my period preference, but I also found the selections less substantial as the chronology wore on. I ate up this book for 600-some pages and then fell a little bit out of love.

My love loss aside, should one desire a representative sample of LA-area literature over a wide swath of time, Writing Los Angeles probably can't be beat. It's all in there, love it or not, and its not like you can't skip around. In this, of all things considered, I find final justification for a rating of 4+ stars. With a little selective omission, you might mold this anthology into the book that you need.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've lived in L.A. for 17 years now, and I feel like I am still discovering the place. This book is an awesome distillation of some of the best writing about L.A. Didion, Capote, West, Faulkner, Weschler, Iyer, Bradbury, they're all here. It's my favorite book to just pick up and "read something" out of, at the moment. This one will be on my coffee table for a good long while.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Enjoying it.

What a wonderful collection of short stories and parts of longer stories. If you know Los Angeles, you nod your head in agreement. If you don't know it, you get acquainted with it. I'll never forget those little forays into the life of LA people. I especially remember the women in the stories by Faulkner, Menchen, and Williams. Not the glamorous movie stars, but unforgettable older ladies—the salt-of-earth Nebraskan Mama Ewing, the blessed Sister Aimée, and the tough but adorable Olga Kedrova.
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