Literature and Race in Los Angeles

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This book analyzes contemporary literature in Los Angeles in relation to the city's form, its visual character and its recent political history. Writers such as Bret Easton Ellis and James Ellroy are considered as responding to racial and ethnic partitioning in LA, as well as to increasing cultural homogeneity. Unlike other books on contemporary American literature, this book builds a composite portrait of a single literary scene in order to demonstrate the significance of writing in a tendentially post-literate culture, and the difficulties of literary representation in a city committed to visual representation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Murphet writes in the coded words and phrases of a scholar addressing his fellow scholars, but more often he is capable of showing us new and provocative ways to look at our city, ourselves and the writers who have tried to capture us in print." Los Angeles Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521805353
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Series: Cultural Margins Series, #8
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 213
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. The representation of Los Angeles; 2. Neo-noir and the archaeology of urban space; Postcards from sin-city; Cities within the city: Third world in the First; Realism and beyond; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2003

    Is there any hope for LA?

    To Julian Murphet, and indeed to the countless number who have written of it, LA is a janus-faced pandora¿s box; both place and myth, a tinseltown heaven and poverty stricken hell. Murphet¿s text aims to explore this paradox, opening with a sociological and geographical survey of the city which serves as an introduction to the series of theoretical ideas that follow. The core of the text is concerned with an investigation into the way in which aesthetic forms, including novels, poetry and theatre, have responded to the morphing of social space within LA, or rather how they survive when ¿Los Angeles¿ as a discernible and individual entity has been consumed by layer after layer of simulation and representation. It seems, as Murphet puts it, that literature is `lying prostrate under the image¿. Murphet explains the changing face of the city through the use of Henri Lefebvre¿s theory of Conceptualised and Representational spaces. Simply put, the Conceptualised space can be defined as the domain of the builder and the architect - those who create the urban cityscape - whilst the Representational space remains owned by the individual; the space of the mind or the bedroom. In LA, the Representational Space has been increasingly eradicated by this Conceptualised space and the process as a whole is part of the greater movement known as `postmodernisation¿. Murphet selects an atypical LA canon, which in many ways maps out this process. He suggests that James Ellroy¿s noir novels chart the descent into postmodernism, whilst Bret Easton Ellis bathes in its entropic neon glow. Dennis Cooper¿s challenging prose begin a battle against simulation and reification, which is furthered by poets such as Wanda Coleman, Luis J Rodriguez and Jesshu Foster and the performance artist Anna Deavere Smith. It is a strength and neatness of approach which characterises Julian Murphet¿s work as a whole, every sentence is rich and informative but never lacking control. All that is included has purpose and the argument is meticulously measured and progressive, drawing the reader along and never losing sight of its central point. Crucially, a broad survey of literary theory is never allowed to eclipse a detailed investigation into the aesthetic media itself. The beguiling question which the text leaves you with is whether the attempt to break through this encompassing blanket of postmodernisation is, or will ever be, successful. Murphet seems to suggest that in many ways the age of postmodernism has arrived and is here to stay, and that what we must now wait for with bated breath, is the aesthetic movement that will no doubt rise out of the ashes. Indeed, the eclectic survey provided here suggests that is has already begun to.

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