The City of Angels as a land of enchantment?
Yes, she insists on that punctuation. Dre come together in the studio, hatch N. Outside, director F. Gary Gray captures the L. A profoundly influential s fear film, this is the one about giant radioactive ants laying waste to the human population. This is L. Rogue narc-squad chief Alonzo Harris Denzel Washington straddles law enforcement and street justice to ferment his own brew of swaggering vigilantism and wet-beak opportunism, while undercover rookie Jake Hoyt Ethan Hawke watches mortified, even as his sleazy superior slips him a PCP-laced joint. The chronically maligned LAPD never looked so demonic at the movies, at least.
Read more. Discover the best things to do in L. How many have you tried? Like what you see? We already have this email. Try another? Love the mag? Our newsletter hand-delivers its best bits to your inbox. Sign up to receive it, and unlock our digital magazines. Love Time Out? Sign up and get the best of your city in our newsletter, as often as you like. Today, he is well known for being the mastermind behind the Buena Vista Social Club, some of the best Latin Jazz made in the last twenty years from musicians whose musical activities were put on the shelf after Fidel Castro's revolution.
But it seems that whenever a musician tries his hand at writing, the game changes, and that no matter how good a musician is, those creative energies responsible for such wonderful music are just unable to provide an equally qualitative counterpart in writing, a curse that has been around since Jim Morrison was alive though I maintain that had he lived longer and had more time to perfect his craft, he could have been a great poet.
The description on the back of the book begins with the words: "What's that you say? Nothing exciting ever happens in Los Angeles? The stories take place from to the late 's, and are detective stories of a sort that resemble long lost cousins of a Chester Himes novel, only Himes' style was much more engrossing and much less dry. What I didn't like was that the stories themselves were indistinguishable, and seemed reshuffled in a way. They could probably stand alone much better were they to have been published in magazines, but, to put it bluntly, Ramones songs are more easily differentiated than these stories are when placed together into what comes off the printing press as empty prose meshed around a bit.
The fact that the great San Francisco institution City Lights Books released these stories only increased my sense of disappointment. First, Cooders' resurrection of the atmosphere of that time is very well done, and it isn't difficult to picture oneself walking through a Los Angeles in the 50's while reading the pages. Second, his sense of nostalgia is very strong, powerful enough to stir anyone's curiosity, which is remarkable given that the 50's were so provincial and boring; still, I suspect that this nostalgia may only apply to white people if the maxim about white people being the only ones who want to travel back in time is true.
Third - and my favourite aspect - Cooder opens the floodgates holding back his interest in music and unleashes it upon the pages, even featuring a few famous jazz and blues musicians.
However bad the stories ended up, at least it can be said that Cooder had a fun time writing them. None of this, however, saves Los Angeles Stories or the city Cooder intends for them to represent. At best, they can serve as temporary satiation for proud Los Angeles people and for people who for some reason wish that they could live in the 50's.
But that's it. Unless a friend wants to give it for Christmas, or one is a hardcore City Lights fan who has to read their entire ouevre, I cannot think of any other reason why anybody would want to read these stories. Oct 25, Amy rated it liked it Shelves: arcs-or-review-copy. Los Angeles was the Land of the Brighter Day, something good was bound to turn up. While the stories are nominally linked, the variety is enormous: mariachi players, park prophets, backalley dentists, tailors, and disc jockeys are all introduced in their native milieu. Set in the first half of the twen "I had made up my mind to quit worrying.
Set in the first half of the twentieth century, these stories are based on the inner life of the inner city. This is not postcard or travel agency Los Angeles; there is no glamour or celebrities to dress it up. Even the weather doesn't seem to cooperate with stereotype: fog and rain are as frequent as bar brawls. The characters are the faceless many that work off the books, just trying to get by while the city appears as a predatory character, breathing and pulsing, foiling any attempts at the good life. The collection is also an excellent geography text to significant Los Angeles locations--Griffith Park, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Union Station, Bunker Hill, and Hollenbeck Park all serve as backdrops, and Cooder seems to know the streets and back alleys very well.
Cocktail bars and bowling alleys are among the seedy gathering places of the working class and small time criminals that Cooder writes about and who occasionally cross tracks with each other. My favorite was "Who do you know that I don't? Cooder creates a world of layaway payments, shiny and finned cars, and musicians desperate to wear a good suit but not eager to pay. Memorably, the tailor even makes one suit to be shared by two musicians who can't afford their own, later assisting them to escape the cops while he helps search for links to the murder.
A prize collection of 78 records becomes a significant clue. Another story focuses on a resourceful guy whose job is to fill in the details on the City Directory, going door-to-door to collect information from suspicious citizens in boardinghouses and side streets.
The essential absurdity of compiling an accurate book aside, Frank is diligent and thorough. Though he's essentially a simple man, his path crosses with three suspicious murders and suddenly he's a suspect: "Once they see a pattern, they think they know it all, and they think they got you. That's not the way life is. Take it from me, life is random and inscrutable, like the City Directory.
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Cooder develops each protagonist well, and creates their world for the reader in inscrutable detail. In fact, that may be one of my only concerns about the collection: at times I felt like there was too much name-dropping and references to streets and neighborhoods and pop culture of the period.
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Sometimes, the many facts slowed down and derailed the narrative from its pace. I think the same effect could have been achieved without so many points of reference and still have remained realistic. Mar 14, Al Maki rated it liked it. I enjoyed this book. Ry Cooder is a fine musician and music is at the heart of this book. It's a series of short stories set in Los Angeles in the late forties and fifties when his musical style was being born.
The characters are a mix of Mexican Americans, African Americans, Okies and Cubans, again, the sources of his musical style. They're stories about itinerant musicians, tailors and high school drop outs trying to get by in a hostile environment.
The stories are by turns funny, gothic, "noi I enjoyed this book. The stories are by turns funny, gothic, "noir" I hate that word but it fits in this case. It was intriguing following the connections between stories because they were related in ways that reminded me of musical variations: similar plots, variations on names, or the same names occurring on similar but different characters. A series of variations that together create an overall effect. I don't expect a musician to be a good writer but his writing is good. I've heard him speak a number of times and the cadence and language of the writing is his spoken voice and he is a good oral story teller which in my experience goes a long way in a fiction writer.
The tone of the book reminded me of Thomas Pynchon's books about California. Pynchon may be the better writer but I think Cooder understands his home town more deeply. On his most recent album, Cooder counts off a song "One, two, threes, quatro" and this book explains what kind of a culture would count that way.
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Sep 14, Stephanie Jane Literary Flits rated it liked it Shelves: fiction-americas , fiction-historical , fiction-short-stories. I finished Los Angeles Stories on the St Malo ferry so was transported from a fortunately calm crossing of the English Channel to the down-at-heel city of Los Angeles in the s and s. Ry Cooder is not only a wonderful musician but also a pretty good writer as these stories prove. There is a fantastic sense of the atmosphere and seediness of the city, the desperation and hope of the people. Each of this collection of short stories has a link to the others, whether it be a place or a charac I finished Los Angeles Stories on the St Malo ferry so was transported from a fortunately calm crossing of the English Channel to the down-at-heel city of Los Angeles in the s and s.
Each of this collection of short stories has a link to the others, whether it be a place or a character and it was fun to spot how they join together. I didn't understand all the stories however, and a few lost me part way through so I was reading them more for their evocative descriptions than for their plots. Others were simpler to follow. Perhaps have a more extensive knowledge of the music scene of the period would have helped?
I did pick up on a number of references but am sure that I missed more than I spotted! Overall, this is an interesting insight into a past time which puts the spotlight onto those who faded from view or who never made it big in the first place, the darker side of the city of dreams, and I enjoyed reading about the array of characters penned by Cooder. I wonder how many were actually real and how many purely imagined? May 17, Greg rated it liked it. Ry Cooder, best known as a session guitarist, songwriter and vocalist has written a book with tales of his home, Los Angeles.
Cooder is successful at painting a picture of the city in it's varying stages of growth and decay over the years and he does so using everyday inhabitants as his set pieces but he with the broadest of strokes. Cooder's success at musically living in any choosen era or geographic location spills onto the pages of this book as he looks closely at forgotten eras and colorful Ry Cooder, best known as a session guitarist, songwriter and vocalist has written a book with tales of his home, Los Angeles.
Cooder's success at musically living in any choosen era or geographic location spills onto the pages of this book as he looks closely at forgotten eras and colorful characters of the street. However, Los Angeles Stories fails to build essential excitement in its story arcs, transitions and characters. Unfortunately the tension in his use of "conflict" often falls short as well. These are all areas a more experienced author would have explored with more precision. Not a bad first effort but a co-writer could have made my journey in these pages more interesting.
Being a big fan of Ry Cooder the musician I bought this book half knowing it wasn't going to be a literal masterpiece but it's not half bad either. Looking back each of the stories really does read like the backdrop for a song. Nov 18, Christopher rated it it was ok. Couldn't get through it.
The short stories themselves have no payoff, loose ends that were once focal points trail off into nothing like wisps of smoke over a fire that fails to light for being overstuffed and unable to breathe. The Spanglish is forced, the dialect is too heavily leaned on as is the period slang--often at the cost of clarity within stories already struggling to have purpose.
There are huge chunks, pages even, of italics. The effort is lazy and amateurish. It reads like a man stand Couldn't get through it. It reads like a man standing on the outside looking in without and real knowledge. When his characters are involved in music, the writing is strongest. As Cooder is a musician by trade, this comes as no surprise and further supports the notion that lack of first hand experience and poor research methods lead to stilted prose outside of music. Jan 04, Susan Eubank rated it liked it Shelves: reading-the-western-landscape-book.
What stayed in your mind? Give an example?
View my complete profile. Ry Cooder has written a book! He spent the first 20 years of his career navigating the history of American music. Then he worked for the movies. After that he helped the world rediscover Cuban music, he introduced us to the Okinawa sound, to the guitars of Timbuktu. More recently he wrote and performed a trilogy of albums about California. Chavez Ravine told the tragic tale of a community of Mexican-Americans, who were moved out of their neighbourhood to make room for Dodger Stadium. This was followed by I, Flathead , which came packaged in a hardbound book which featured the lyrics to the songs, along with a novella to flesh out the stories.
The book came signed or unsigned. My copy was bought for me in Barcelona and mailed at great cost the stamps covered the front of the envelope as well as the postage. There was certainly a sense of place and time in the tale of a door to door salesman who gets involved in a mystery by circumstance. It was a bit like a Raymond Chandler story. Maybe not as cleverly plotted, but rich in language, character and the essence of 's LA. Each tale has a title and a date, and early to mids seems to be Cooder's oeuvre.
Los Angeles Stories
Some of the stories echo each other as characters or at least names reappear. The links are tenuous except that they all take place in the City of Angels and all involve people involved in shadowy activities -- musicians, gun shop owners, pornographers, thieves, and all sorts of women. It might be too late for that. Bravo to City Lights for taking him on, and introducing him to a broader audience. Well, obviously, Ry Cooder fanatics will have to get a copy. Fans of hard-boiled fiction might want to give it a try, and anyone interested in the city itself, will find much to savour.
The limited edition hardcover is all gone but the paperback edition is available anywhere books are sold.