“They call Los Angeles the City of Angels. I didn’t find it to be that, exactly,” says The Stranger at the beginning of The Big Lebowski.
So what is LA, exactly? What is the dark clockwork at the center of its ticking? To get the dirty, you've gotta read Land of Smoke and Mirrors, now on sale.
The fourth book from Vincent Brook, a cultural studies prof at UCLA, Land of Smoke and Mirrors reveals the psychic tentpoles of LA's film heritage.
Ethnic cleansings. Deportations. Carmageddons.
Not to mention urban and moral decay. Koreans, living in African-American neighborhoods. The cynicism of Jewish directors who fled Hitler and spawned film noir.
Each of which gave us movies like Training Day. Boyz n the Hood. And that '90s paean to the alienated man, Falling Down.
And that other paean to man's modern befuddlement, LA Story:
"LA Wants 2 Help U," the signpost says to Steve Martin.
But does it? Who knows.
To quote the The Stranger again: “Maybe that’s why I found the place s’durned innarestin'.”
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Rutgers University Press