New Yorkers like myself, who've found themselves stranded in Los Angeles against our sanity, have many descriptions for the place. “Where the sun never stops shining and the idiots never stop talking.” “Hollywood — where anything can happen and nothing ever does.” “A hundred suburbs in search of a city.” And worse. When civic cheerleaders proudly proclaim that the world capital of the entertainment industry is perhaps the most influential town on the planet, we naysayers are reminded why civilization is on a steep decline. To be fair — something I'm loathe to be when it comes to Hell-Lay — Igor Stravinsky and Aldous Huxley are among the intellectuals who became residents, and William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald were lured here by screenplay cash (much to the consternation of their livers). Lots of smart people have tried to explain L.A., and the latest attempt is an excellent volume edited by Kevin McNamara, called The Cambridge Companion To The Literature of Los Angeles (Cambridge University Press). McNamara joins a half dozen other contributors tonight, including Bill Mohr, one of Southern California's finest poets, who'll read from their essays and cover subjects from nature in L.A., the Southland onscreen and local landmarks. It's an impressive collection, one that has forced me to rethink my attitudes toward L.A., if not change my mind.

Thu., June 24, 7:30 p.m., 2010

LA Weekly