Here’s how this week’s arts and culture piece begins:
David Kipen is a native Angeleno, former literature director for the National Endowment of the Arts, professor, critic, radio personality, and founder of the nonprofit Boyle Heights lending library Libros Schmibros.
But his greatest achievement may the splendid new book he compiled and edited: “Dear Los Angeles: The City In Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018.”
Rather than arrange the entries chronologically, Kipen hit upon a brilliant alternative: “I could start with January 1 and just work forward one day at a time, complementary trying to juxtapose a few passages for each date. One step forward, two centuries back — the perennial, quixotic spectacle of LA forever finding fresh mistakes to make.”
Thus, for any given day, you might get a padre roaming on horseback sizing up prospective mission sites, an account of meeting Greta Garbo at a cocktail party, and, say, on June 2, 1979, screenwriter Michael Palin’s evocative description of the city: “Low, flat, sprawling and laid-back — like a patient on a psychiatrist’s couch.”
The book opens, fittingly, with a passage from Judge Benjamin Hayes who on Jan. 1, 1853, wrote: “I have not yet seen a gold mine!”