Paul Goes Hollywood
Go West, through the heartland, through hardship, to stand beneath that perpetually blue sky and gaze out at the endless Pacific. And Go West they did, each for their own reasons. The first sought to map the continent, and they were followed by those looking for land of their own. Over the decades others followed, looking for gold, jobs, and fame. The same thing has always lead people out into the West, the promise of prosperity. California represents the real American dream, upward social mobility for every good capitalist. If you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, but make it in California and you’ll be a star.
At the heart of this American holy land lies Los Angeles, the city of Angels. A great beast (and it is a beast, make no mistake about that) that is an infant even by American history standards, swallowing everything into the sprawl as it grows. In its heyday, the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood Golden Age, beautiful people, Sunset Boulevard Mansions were all juxtaposed against Bunker Hill slums, wide-scale city corruption, and the plight of city’s immigrant population. Today, the movie business is still booming, as is the porn industry, and the blessed beautiful ones (now blissfully egalitarian if you have the money, thanks to the wonders of modern science and plastic surgery) can clothe themselves in the decadence of Rodeo, but the city still has its fair share of problems: gridlock, gangs, and pollution to name a few. If LA is the City of Angels, it always has had (and still has) its share of demons.
I’ve never been to LA, and I’m relatively sure that if I did, I’d probably hate it (although to be fair, these days I hate going outside in general), but there is something about the city that has always fascinated me. There are contradictory elements in all places, but it seems to me that in LA they are more pronounced, almost to a cartoony level. Over the next couples of months, I’ll be writing a lot about the history and the portrayal of California (with a focus on LA) across different mediums. From non-fiction classics like Carey McWilliams The Island on the Land and Norman Klein’s A History of Forgetting, to novels like Farewell My Lovely, Play it as it Lays, and The Big Nowhere, as well as some seminal films like Greed, Chinatown and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? If there is anything you’d particularly like to see, feel free to comment, but bear in mind I’ve probably thought of the more obvious stuff. I’d be particularly interested in lesser known work by African American and Chicano authors, as well as those by women.
TrackBack URL for this entry: