Saturday, February 4, 2012

Paradise (?)

BELOW YOU'LL  find just a snip from piece from an essay written by  novelist James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity) that the L.A. Times recently reprinted.  If first ran in 1933, and Cain muses on the complexity of living in Southern California. It touches on many of the themes -- Arcadia, Utopia, Boosterism -- that  we discussed last week in class. Here you will see the first traces of the anti-booster sentiment and the subsequent backlash.

"There is no reward for aesthetic virtue here, no punishment for aesthetic crime; nothing but a vast cosmic indifference, and that is the one thing the human imagination cannot stand. It withers, or else, frantic to make itself felt, goes off into feverish and idiotic excursions that have neither reason, rhyme, nor point, and that even fail in their one, purpose, which is to attract notice.

Now, in spite of the foregoing, when you come to consider the life that is encountered here, you have to admit that there is a great deal to be said for it."
 “I shall attempt, in this piece, an appraisal of the civilization of Southern California, but it occurs to me that before I begin I had better give you some idea what the place looks like. If you are like myself before I came here, you have formed, from Sunkist ads, newsreels, movie magazines, railroad folders, and so on, a some¬what false picture of it, and you will have to get rid of this before you can understand what I am trying to say…”
The full piece is in your text, "Writing Los Angeles" but you can also click over to it online here. 

Image: Vintage linen postcard showing view of Mendocino Drive as it winds through Pasadena with palm trees lining both sides of the street and mountains in the distance. Credit: Curt Teich Postcard Archives / Getty Images

(Source: Los Angeles Times)

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