MacArthur Park Is Melting in the Dark

Now, before I have my say about David L. Ulin’s new compendium of writing on Los Angeles, there are just a few things that need to be said about my own “Hollywood years,” because I get tired of being asked about that episode by nosy people who are just plain confused about the facts.  So get this: I never knew Ava Gardner at all in Hollywood.  I knew Miss Gardner later on, in Madrid and London, and all I want to say in answer to so many inquiries—and this is the last time I intend to address the matter—is that she was no kind of cook.  And I will even go so far as to say that neither was she a woman of any notable intellectual attainment, so let’s just leave it at that.  Besides, though Ulin’s anthology does bring back some memories, it is not oriented toward Hollywood alone.

This special anthology parallels the 1998 volume Writing New York, also published by the Library of America.  Vertical New York and horizontal Los Angeles, despite their manifold differences, have some things in common besides having inspired or provoked so much writing and even literature, and one of them is that they are places of the mind.  We think of these cities as made of the words we know them by and of the attitudes they represent.  And we know them also by the still and moving images they have produced.  Writing Los Angeles leaves little to be...

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