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L.A. from Every Angle
Posted April 01, 2010 to photo album "L.A. from Every Angle"
As Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg shows, there are many different L.A.s inside the city limits. Joel Bleifuss takes us on the tour of how artists imagine Los Angeles.
Slide 23: L.A. of the Essay Writers
Joan Didion (1934- ) From 1966 to 2004, essayist and novelist Joan Didion (a Sacramento girl) called Los Angeles (and Malibu) home. Author Joan Didion (right) in 2008, and (left) in 1970 sitting inside a white Stingray car in Hollywood. In 2006, the city of Malibu designated Didion’s 1979 book The White Album, as part of the One City, One Book program, that it recommended everyone in the city to read. To mark the occasion, author Mark Weingarten
gave a speech in which he said in part:
“[F]or Didion, Los Angeles was a social experiment that failed. … Among the many piercing flashes of insight to be found in The White Album’s essays … is one overarching fact of L.A. life—that it exists on a very slippery foundation. Here was an arid desert landscape adjacent to the Pacific that received its water over 200 miles away from the Central Valley, that built its houses on an active seismic fault, that was prone to brush fires, flooding and earthquakes. It was a city in denial of its own instability. This hard fact of L.A. life co-existed uneasily with Didion’s own psychic instability … She understood what so many failed to grasp about Los Angeles, especially all of those outsiders who migrate here seeking eternal good health, good weather and untold riches: That life here tends to be about as stable as mercury on glass, and therefore not prone to snug feelings of security and safety. … Re-reading the book, it’s hard to feel optimistic about things having changed much for the good in L.A. New social issues—larger, more intractable issues—have supplanted the ones Didion wrote about. … But this region is remarkably resilient to change and has the capacity to adapt to whatever is thrown its way. So Didion, with The White Album, has given us a gift—a Baedeker to a state that’s as complicated and culturally rich as most countries, charged with an undercurrent of menace that always lies in wait, but also prone to unexpected moments of grace. All newcomers should be handed a copy of this book when they arrive. Just like I was at USC, 23 years ago.”