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Book 39: L.A. Lore by Stephen Brook

Researched and written in 1991, and published in 1992, just before the Rodney King riots, L.A. Lore is a snapshot of Los Angeles at the start of the 1990s as observed by a knowledgeable outsider. Brooks visited the city for three months and traveled to most of its municipalities and neighborhoods (and some neighboring ones), gathering material for his book. He puts a strong focus on architecture and museums, but also discusses the media, religion, the different cultures of the different neighborhoods, racial relations and history of the city, to name a few of the ingredients. Many chapters begin with snippets of radio shows he has listened to, although some of them actually seem fictional in their bizarre awfulness.

The book is just about as sprawling as L.A. itself. I, like anyone else, have been aware of L.A. for a long time, and know the names of some its neighborhoods from popular culture and media: Hollywood, Bel Air, Venice, Malibu, Beverley Hills, Burbank, Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Long Beach, South Central, Compton. However, I have never given much thought to the actual location of these places within the city, or the fact that they are separate entities, each with its own culture and identity. This book brought that home, and the map included at the front was helpful to see their locations relative to each other.

The book is well written, and while one can sense sometimes that the author wants to be much more scathing than he is, overall he seems to have some affection for the place.

Now I would like to find a similar snapshot of contemporary L.A. Can you recommend one?

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