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L.A. writers’ 24 favorite literary passages about Los Angeles

Ice-T, Joan Didion and Andy Warhol.
Ice-T, Joan Didion and Andy Warhol.
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Writers answering a survey from The Times, part of our comprehensive Lit City guide, cited their favorite passages about the city from a wide array of authors, ranging from the usual suspects to unexpected sources of L.A.-related wit. Below, 27 writers on their 24 favorite passages.

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Lynell George

“so this is it, i say to the enigma in the mirror this is your lot/assignment/relegation

this is your city

i find my way to the picture window

my eyes capture the purple reach of Hollywood’s hills the gold eye of sun mounting the east

the gray anguished arms of avenue

I will never leave here.”

(Wanda Coleman, “Prisoner of Los Angeles”)

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3

Stuart Gibbs

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.”

(Raymond Chandler, “Red Wind”)

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A guide to the literary geography of Los Angeles: A comprehensive bookstore map, writers’ meetups, place histories, an author survey, essays and more.

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4

Maryrose Wood

“A charming kind of superstitious innocence.”

(George Carlin)

George Carlin (Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

George Carlin
(Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
5

Aminah Mae Safi

“Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”

(Joan Didion, “The Santa Anas”)

6

Tod Goldberg

“Winter is the season of the arsonist in Southern California. The manzanita and chaparral are dry and brittle and the Santa Ana winds have begun to blow. They move at gale force. They cross the arid Mojave and whip through the canyons of the San Bernardino mountains, through the live oak and pines, the ponderosa, the sugar and coulter, white fir and incense cedar. I know these names because I live in these mountains, eighty miles east of the sprawl of Los Angeles, and I worry when the winds come. I worry about the possibility of fire. I know he’s out there, the arsonist. I know he’s waiting, like me, for a day of opportunity very much like this.”

(James Brown, “The Los Angeles Diaries”)

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Morgan Matson, Kayla Cagan, Marie Lu

“Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city.”

(Dorothy Parker)

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Mike Sonksen

“The world is a suburb of Los Angeles.”

(Michael C. Ford)

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Rex Ogle

Legend has it that when the famous Bette Davis was being interviewed on a talk show, she was asked what advice she has for actors trying to make it in Hollywood. Her response: “Take Fountain.”

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10

Melissa de la Cruz

“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.”

(Andy Warhol)

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Abdi Nazemian

“Los Angeles is for people who sleep.”

(Madonna)

Madonna presents a tribute to Aretha Franklin

Madonna
(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
12

Kelly Yang

“In Los Angeles, you can have the city life and feel like you’re on holiday at the same time.”

(Isabel Marant, designer)

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Leslie Margolis

“A good part of any day in Los Angeles is spent driving, alone, through streets devoid of meaning to the driver, which is one reason the place exhilarates some people, and floods others with an amorphous unease.”

(Joan Didion, “After Henry”)

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14

Bridgette Bianca

“South Central does it like nobody does.”

(Montell Jordan, “This Is How We Do It”)

15

Cherisse Yanit Nadal

“Koreatown was an L.A. neighborhood that told the city’s entire history through its architecture — from 1920s apartment buildings with art deco iron lettering on top of the roofs to the neon, layered storefronts that arrived loudly in Los Angeles via Seoul.”

(Maurene Goo, “The Way You Make Me Feel”)

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Iva-Marie Palmer, Steven Banks

“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”

(Frank Lloyd Wright)

A portrait of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright
(Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

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17

Héctor Tobar

“L.A. is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities.”

(Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”)

18

Lauren Kate

“Mostly I just kill time,” he said, “and it dies hard.

( Raymond Chandler, “The Long Goodbye”)

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19

Adele Griffin

“The apparent ease of California life is an illusion, and those who believe the illusion real live here in only the most temporary way.”

(Joan Didion, “The White Album”)

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Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

“You cannot just visit

You must actually stay for a time

You will need wheels

You will need a map

You will need an intrepid spirit

You will need patience and time

And most of all

And, trust me, thank goodness for this part,

You will need

People”

(Traci Kato Kiriyama, “Los Angeles — 1”)

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21

Raphael Simon (a.k.a. Pseudonymous Bosch)

“The sun is a joke.”

(Nathanael West, “The Day of the Locust”)

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María Amparo Escandón

“Get out of my way. I gotta get back to L.A.”

(Barbara Morrison, jazz singer)

23

Matthew Specktor

“You can’t tell a story about L.A. that doesn’t turn around in the middle or get lost.”

(Eve Babitz)

Eve Babitz

Eve Babitz
(Los Angeles Times)

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24

Rachel Howzell Hall

“Los Angeles is a microcosm of the United States. If L.A. falls, the country falls.”

(Ice-T)

25

Antoine Wilson

“Everything they say about Los Angeles is true.” I don’t have a source, but that pretty much sums it up for me.

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