So I just finished The Long Good-Bye, by Raymond Chandler, which I loved for its priceless assessments: "She opened her mouth like a fire-bucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn't hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed." And also because it helped me go a little easier on LA. Whenever I don't feel like I'm understanding or appreciating someone or thing in my life, it always helps to take a step back and re-enter through the eyes of someone else or some other era. Disagreeing with a friend? Access his baby photos if you can. Down on yourself? Revisit some essay you wrote when you were 7.
When I wanted to connect more to the neighborhood of Brentwood, I read Blonde. When my commute took me past 1403 N. Laurel, where Fitzgerald lived, I reached for The Last Tycoon. When I wanted to love Ivar Street more, I picked up Day of the Locust and was touched to know it was once called "Lysol Alley." Obviously, cities are memorialized in film and TV all the time, and when I miss New York I'll absolutely put in something Woody Allen (those panoramic apartment shots!) or When Harry Met Sally or (my favorite) Splash. But since LA is where I live now, I stand to benefit more from investing in its lore. Why did people come here fifty years ago and what was it like? It was heartwarming to hear Philip Marlowe kvetch about the misery of 1953-era smog or how it feels to drive home after a bad gig: "I drove back to Hollywood feeling like a short length of chewed string." What about you? Which books have helped you love your city more?