LA Times, LA Magazine, and LA Observed Feature Project for Film Based on Lionel Rolfe’s “Literary LA”

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July 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on LA Times, LA Magazine, and LA Observed Feature Project for Film Based on Lionel Rolfe’s “Literary LA” 

Tom Lutz, the founder and editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books and filmmaker Kurt Olerud have launched a Kickstarter fundraising project to produce a documentary feature film based on Lionel Rolfe’s Literary LA. , a feature documentary that “strives to capture the city’s literary soul in all of its complexity.” They are seeking $23,000 and plan to have the film feature such notables as Walter Mosely, Aimee Bender, Hector Tobar, Janet Fitch, Jerry Stahl, Rachel Kushner, Mike Davis, Steve Erickson.

The project has been written up in the LA Times, in LA Magazine, and in LA Observed. Check out the links to read more.

Lutz and Olerud in their announcement of the project write:

“Originally inspired by Lionel Rolfe’s pioneering and idiosyncratic survey of the city’s culture from its bohemian roots to the present day, Literary LA strives to capture the city’s literary soul in all of its complexity. . . .

“We have captured many of the various literary perspectives about this most diverse and in many ways still indefinable American city. Those who are native to the city, those who have come here from elsewhere in the country, and those who have immigrated from elsewhere in the world, who bring an even fresher perspective and who offer a window into this constantly shifting, ethnically diverse city. We cover a wide range of genres, including crime fiction (Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain), Hollywood fiction (Nathanael West), street realism (John Fante, Charles Bukowski) and, of course, the ever-present literature of the LA Apocalypse (too much to mention, unless you just say ‘all of it’).”



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July 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on MY LITTLE TOWN: THE GREAT SUBURBAN EXPERIMENT 


1947-48 High School Cheerleaders

By Bob Vickrey


In his classic 1970s ballad, My Little Town, Paul Simon methodically indicted small town America as an entrapment that placed limitations on the aspirations of its inhabitants and offered only a glimmer of hope in breaking free of those shackles to pursue their hopes and dreams.

Few of my peers in the 1950s and 60s gave much thought to having felt trapped within the lives into which they were born, and most of us considered ourselves lucky and grateful for the comforts of our working-class lifestyle. We knew little of the larger world that existed around us at that time. Hopes and expectations for the future generally evolve slowly over time, and there was little consideration of unhappiness about our living environment. Read more

The heartland

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July 1, 2013 · Posted in California Roads Scholar · Comments Off on The heartland 

William Saroyan's house from 1921-1927. Courtesy Fresno County Historic Society


By Phyl Van Ammers


William Saroyan repeated a story in The Bicycle Rider in Beverly Hills (1952), originally told to him by an Armenian actor at a picnic on Kings River in the summer of 1918.   The actor was almost eighty.  Saroyan had been ten. 

 “A hunter snared a bird which was so beautiful that the hunter said to himself, ‘It would be a sin to end the life of this creature.  I shall take it home, build it a wonderful cage, give it food and water, and I shall love it with all my heart, for I have never seen another bird like it.’”

The bird was unhappy and said every evening, “’Ahkh, Vahtahn’ (Oh, my country!’) “  So the hunter opened the cage, the bird flew out, and the hunter followed him until the bird “came to a place so desolate, hot, dry, rocky, and barren that it seemed to be the end of the world. “  Read more

Animals and the English Language

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July 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on Animals and the English Language 

Leslie Evans

Our language is filled with metaphors and similes comparing people to animals, and the very names of many animals are often used as epithets to characterize people. Most of the metaphors and similes (someone is LIKE or AS something) are so long in use that they have become cliches. The terms mostly date from the days when most people lived on farms and many in wooded areas where most of the animals enlisted were actually familiar to the speakers. Today American city dwellers on a daily basis see mainly dogs, cats, pigeons, crows, and squirrels. Less often, rats, mice, and hawks. Still less often, live horses, goats, pigs, and sheep. Except on television and trips to the zoo, many of the others are known only by reputation.

Our predilection is for anthropocentric feelings of superiority to other animals. It allows us, as our numbers swell into the many billions, to construct an ever larger and more horrific and cruel industry that raises animals and birds for food. Pigs whose lives are spent in pens so small they cannot turn around, chickens with their beaks amputated and without room to take a step, slaughterhouses where the cows whose life’s goal is to become part of McDonald’s billions and billions of burgers end in terror and pain. Read more

Honey on the long narrow road

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July 1, 2013 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comments Off on Honey on the long narrow road 

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)


Once upon a time, or as the Turks sometimes begin their stories,

“There was once and there was not (once upon a time), many were faithful to God. Inside past time when straw was a cradle, when the camel was the town crier, when the flea was a barber, when I was pushing my mother’s cradle, and the cradle said ‘tinger minger.’”

In that straw cradle time when the flea was a barber, I lived in the village of Degirmindere on the Gulf of Iznit.

Iznit is the Turkish name for what had been Nicea, which is where the Nicean Creed was developed.  In 1331, Orhan captured Nicea from the Byzantines.   I had memorized the Nicean Creed in Bible studies when I was a child at the Silver Lake Presbyterian Church.

There were cherry trees and hazlenut trees surrounding Degirmendire.  When the gypsy women harvested the fruit, I sent my children – then about four and six years old, down to the orchards.  The gypsy women filled their aprons with cherries and hung cherries from their ears.  In the early spring, the gypsies sold cucumbers, parsely, later artichokes and eggplants, in the marketplace.  Thirty years later, Degirmendire was the epicenter of the Marmara earthquake and almost completely destroyed. Read more