Best Paragraph I Read Today (on LA)

From Salman Rushdie in his novel Shalimar the Clown (review forthcoming). In poetic fashion it captures some essence of LA, and near the end of the graf speaks to why I think it’s a city better to live in than visit.

He praised the city, commended it precisely for the qualities that were commonly held to be its greatest faults. That the city had no focal point, he professed hugely to admire. The idea of the center was in his view outdated, oligarchic, an arrogant anachronism. To believe in such a thing was to consign most of life to the periphery, to marginalize and in doing so to devalue. The de-centered promiscuous sprawl of this giant invertebrate blog, this jellyfish of concrete and light, made it the true democratic city of the future. As India [name of daughter] navigated the hollow freeways her father lauded the city’s bizarre anatomy, which was fed and nourished by many such congealed and flowing arteries but needed no heart to drive its mighty flux. That it was a desert in disguise caused him to celebrate the genius of human beings, their ability to populate the earth with their imagings, to bring water to the wilderness and bustle to the void; that the desert had its revenge on the complexions of its conquerors, drying them, ingraining lines and furrows, provided these triumphant mortals with the salutary lesson that no victory was absolute, that the struggle between earthlings and the earth could never be decided in favor of either combatant, but swung back and forth through all eternity. That it was a hidden city, a city of strangers, appealed to him most of all. In the Forbidden City of the Chinese emperors, only royalty had the privilege of remaining occult. In this brilliant burg, however, secrecy was freely available to all comers. The modern obsession with intimacy, with the revelation of the self to the other, was not to Max’s taste. An open city was a naked whore, lying invitingly back and turning every trick; whereas this veiled and difficult place, this erotic capital of the obscure stratagem, knew precisely how to arouse and heighten our metropolitan desires.

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4 Responses to Best Paragraph I Read Today (on LA)

  1. Craig Mische says:

    I can’t come up with anything better than the usual “thanks for posting this” or “I completely agree” but that is what my comment it. My birthplace was Oxnard, CA but my parents moved to MN when I was 2. Each time I visit LA, it grabs me and there is something about what Salman describes that grabs me about certain neighborhoods.

  2. Now that’s good writing.

  3. Al Brown says:

    Wow. Did Salman really use the expression “invertebrate blog”? That is crazy :-)

  4. That’s a pretty intense and poetic analysis of Los Angeles. As an LA county local, born and raised, all I know is that I love it! As I’m not that familiar with other cities, I’m unqualified to provided specific reason why LA rules, besides the many things there are to do here…but I know LA does in fact rule!

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