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L.A.'s Exiles

Collection presents misplaced writers from yesteryear.

May 05, 2001|ANN SHIELDS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Paul Vangelisti has been a poet, journalist, teacher and, more recently, the editor of "L.A. Exile: A Guide to Los Angeles Writing 1932 to 1998" (Marsilio, $14.95). He will discuss his book when he speaks to the Ventura County Writers Club on Tuesday at Borders in Thousand Oaks.

In a recent telephone interview, he explained his criteria in selecting the book's 38 authors, arranged alphabetically from Theodor W. Adorno to Tennessee Williams.

"All these people were born and formed elsewhere," Vangelisti said. "There are plenty of writers who were born elsewhere and came here when they were young--some very fine writers in that area--M.F.K. Fisher, for example. But she was formed here."

Writing from the perspective of a San Franciscan who has spent more than 30 years in Los Angeles, he said that even after a good deal of time, people still act like Texans or Iowans, Guadalajarans or Salvadorans, etc.

In Los Angeles, exile becomes a habitual condition, even for those born only 400 or 500 miles to the north, he said. He quoted Charles Bukowski, who said, "I think it is important to know that a man or woman, writer or not, can find more isolation in Los Angeles than in Boise, Idaho."

Many of the writers in his book ended up writing for films, but only because they were here and it was the only way for a writer to make a living at the time, he said. James M. Cain was the exception, having come west on assignment from the New Yorker to write about Los Angeles.

"We're talking about the 1930s, when writers heard they could make a lot of money here, and then they had these terrible experiences," Vangelisti said. "A lot of them went back, a lot of them stayed. But the ones who stayed figured out something else they could do."

He probably couldn't do this book today, he said, because Los Angeles is now the place to go. That wasn't the case 20 years ago, he said.

"The ones who have come here in the '90s came here to write Hollywood stuff--to be part of the entertainment industry, and they aren't irreverent anymore," he said. "You aren't going to be irreverent and be on TV, no matter what anybody tells you. Because, if it sells, to me it's not irreverent."

Vangelisti has written 20 books of poetry and was co-editor, with John McBride, of the literary magazine "Invisible City."

HAPPENINGS

* Today: noon. J. Jefferson Parker will discuss and sign "Silent Joe." At 4 p.m., Barbara Seranella will discuss and sign "Unfinished Business." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.

* Tuesday: 7 p.m. The Second Tuesday Contemporary Book Group will focus on "The Unconsoled" by Kazuo Ishiguro. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Tuesday: 7:30 p.m. Paul Vangelisti will speak at the monthly meeting of the Ventura County Writers Club at Borders in Thousand Oaks. Call Joanne Sehnem at 579-9414 for more information.

* Friday: 10:30 a.m. to noon, Douglas Wood, author of "What Dads Can't Do," will sign his new book, "What Moms Can't Do." Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura. 650-9688,

* Friday: noon. Gayle Lynds will discuss and sign "Mesmerized." Mysteries to Die For, 374-0084.

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