Literary Love Letters To Los Angeles


A while back we did a post on literary love letters to NYC, but we knew at some point we should honor the entertainment capital of the world, so today is our offering for Los Angeles. It’s a tough town, as the authors below know all too well, and it can be a very dark place sometimes. But as long as people keep dreaming of their name in lights, LA will remain as the city to go to become a star. So here’s to all the film buffs, rock stars, and waiters waiting for a lucky break — keep toughing it out, and enjoy the scenery in the meantime. All hail Tinseltown, in all its troubled, frightening glory.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

“Maria made a list of things she would never do. She would never: walk through the Sands or Caesar’s alone after midnight. She would never: ball at a party, do S-M unless she wanted to, borrow furs from Abe Lipsey, deal. She would never: carry a Yorkshire in Beverly Hills.”

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

“The talk of pale, burning-eyed students, anarchists and utopians all, over tea and cigarettes in a locked room long past midnight, is next morning translated, with the literalness of utter innocence, into the throwing of the bomb, the shouting of the proud slogan, the dragging away of the young dreamer-doer, still smiling, to the dungeon and the firing squad.”

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

“The gentle-eyed, horse-faced maid let me into the long gray and white upstairs sitting room with the ivory drapes tumbled extravagantly on the floor and the white carpet from wall to wall. A screen star’s boudoir, a place of charm and seduction, artificial as a wooden leg.”

Zeroville by Steve Erickson

“At Crescent Heights, Sunset winds down into the Strip’s gorge, and Vikar stands as if at the mouth of wonderland, gazing at Schwab’s Drugstore… he knows the story about Lana Turner being discovered there isn’t true, but he also knows that Harold Arlen wrote ‘Over the Rainbow’ there and that F. Scott Fitzgerald had a heart attack there. Vikar is unclear whether F. Scott Fitzgerald actually died there; he lived somewhere around the block. Actually, he’s unclear about F. Scott Fitzgerald, beyond the fact he was a writer whose work included The Women, starring Joan Crawford, although he didn’t get a screen credit.”

Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita

“The two young men wended their way north toward Hollywood, peeling oranges, bouncing flippant ideas for a storyboard back and forth. It was overcast but so what; the forecast was always sun.”

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

“Reporting time was 5 a.m. and I was the only drunk there. I always drank until past midnight, and there we’d sit, at 5 a.m., waiting to get on the clock, waiting for some regular to call in sick. The regulars usually called in sick when it rained or during a heatwave or the day after a holiday when the mail load doubled.”

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

“The psychiatrist I see during the four weeks I’m back is young and has a beard and drives a 450 SL and has a house in Malibu. I’ll sit in his office in Westwood with the shades drawn and my sunglasses on, smoking a cigarette, sometimes cloves, just to irritate him, sometimes crying. Sometimes I’ll yell at him and he’ll yell back. I tell him that I have these bizarre sexual fantasies and his interest will increase noticeably.”

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

“An abandoned auto court in the San Berdoo foothills; Buzz Meeks checked in with ninety-four thousand dollars, eighteen pounds of high-grade heroin, a 10- gauge pump, a .38 special, a .45 automatic and a switchblade he’d bought off a pachuco at the border — right before he spotted the car parked across the line: Mickey Cohen goons in an LAPD unmarked, Tijuana cops standing by to bootjack a piece of his goodies, dump his body in the San Ysidro River. He’d been running a week; he’d spent fifty-six grand staying alive: cars, hideouts at four and five thousand a night — risk rates — the innkeepers knew Mickey C. was after him for heisting his dope summit and his woman, the L.A. Police wanted him for killing one of their own.”

Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

“He left the car at Vine Street. As he walked along, he examined the evening crowd. A great many of the people wore sports clothes which were not really sports clothes. Their sweaters, knickers, slacks, blue flannel jackets with brass buttons were fancy dress. The fat lady in the yachting cap was going shopping, not boating; the man in the Norfolk jacket and Tyrolean hat was returning, not from a mountain, but an insurance office; and the girl in slacks and sneaks with a bandanna around her head had just left a switchboard, not a tennis court.”

The Love of The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“‘What you say — how you walk — the way you look right this minute –‘ He saw she had melted a little and his hopes rose. ‘Tomorrow is Sunday and usually I work on Sunday but if there’s anything you’re curious about in Hollywood, any person you want to meet or see, please let me arrange it.’

They were standing by the elevator. It opened but she let it go.

‘You’re very modest,’ she said. ‘You always talk about showing me the studio and taking me around. Don’t you ever stay alone?’

‘Tomorrow I’ll feel very much alone.’

‘Oh, the poor man — I could weep for him. He could have all the stars jumping around him and he chooses me.’

He smiled — he had laid himself open to that one.'”