Saturday, May 23, 2009

Beverly Hills Cliches Sent

This Memorial Day weekend got kind of a lazy start thanks to too much fun at Friday night's Kills/Horrors show, plus visions of hot dogs and burgers kept dancing through my head. Good thing that LA Times made my work easy -- The headline "A Novel With LA Cliches" stared me right in the face when I sleepily picked up Saturday's Calendar section.

Literary critic Mary McNamara's as annoyed with LA stereotypes as we are in her review of Jennifer Steinhauer and Jessica Hendra's Beverly Hills Adjacent:

It's pilot season and Mitch Gold, a working actor, is again driving his wife June, a UCLA poetry professor, crazy. This is a terrific setup -- pilot season is a true only-in-L.A. situation (unlike traffic, smog and plastic surgery, which have become depressingly universal)... Unfortunately Hendra (who is married to actor Kurt Fuller) and Steinhauer run this fun premise through a very familiar wringer, giving us clich├ęd potshots and an over-abundance of anecdotal
Love how she just knocks those well-worn cliches right out of the way and moves on. Who has time when so many of the old standbys are featured right in the novel? The best is her recognition of my not-seen-in-a-while personal stereotype fave, LA's Dark Underbelly:

The Hollywood novel was, of course, built on the rather pleasing revelation that the glamorous, with their lovely faces, swell cars and swimming pools, are in fact insecure, narcissistic loony toons, made so by the corruptive force of the industry. But while this was news for Nathanael West, Evelyn Waugh and even Michael Tolkin and David Freeman, it is decidedly less so now.
That's what we've been saying, Mary McNamara! It's too bad these writers have succombed to such an apparently bad case of LA stereotype-itis, because McNamara does like a lot of things about this book:

The most frustrating thing about "Beverly Hills Adjacent" is that the writing is so consistently good, at times lyrical, and there are some very funny scenes and memorable characters -- June's many automotive mishaps, Mitch's encounters with the playwright who once stalked him but is now super-hot in Hollywood, his rivalry with another actor who is invariably also up for his parts, all of which makes a reader wish very hard that Steinhauer and Hendra had done a better job of ignoring formula and written what they actually know. Not predictable "Tinseltown" anecdotes and marketable versions of people they've met, but what they've actually learned from living in Los Angeles. Because, like it or not, Hollywood is more than just a collection of egos jockeying for power and money, just like a novel is more than just a set of scenes.

Right. People who live here should know better. Steinhauer's a New York Times bureau chief (why am I not surprised?) and Hendra's a memoirist daughter of a memoirist (a somewhat depressing seeming one, to boot) -- are we really to believe they never meet literary types or people with depth out here?

Eh, I can't rail any more; I've got sausages to grill with interesting, educated people in lovely weather. But Mary, call us! We're definitely on your side with this one.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cliche Writer's Blues 2

Okay, Diablo Cody, I hope you're blowing a kiss goodbye because I have had just about enough out of you:

Los Angeles is often described as the nadir of vapidity, a smog-choked space cradle. By contrast, Greenblatt's always feels like an oasis of warmth and substance. Inside the deli, people are buying cheapo vodka, Reubens with Russian
dressing, and bottles of Piper-Heidsieck, which, according to a handwritten placard, tastes better than Veuve Clicquot.

Again with dissing us in your Entertainment Weekly column. You know who "often describes" Los Angeles in this manner? That would be you. You, who chooses to live here and has a very successful career and life that many people would envy. Don't like us? I'm sure Minneapolis will be happy to take you back.

I do agree with her on Greenblatt's, although the above paragraph skates a bit too close to the East Coast Real cliche for my taste. But the most telling part of the article is here:

After I get my soup, plus a corned beef sandwich and a pickle the size of a Wiffle bat, I drive back up the canyon in the hopes of getting home by nine. Daisy of Love is premiering, and as you might infer based on my past coverage of Rock of Love, I'm not going to miss a second of VH1's latest ''dating'' show. As soon as I get home, I settle in with my German shepherd and Chihuahua — the Yao Ming and Spud Webb of the animal kingdom — log on to Twitter, and turn on the boob tube.
Okay, so you base your opinion of us on Daisy of Love and Rock of Love, yet you only need go to your own neighborhood deli to find something in LA you love? Imagine what could happen should you venture out even further, to one of our world class museums or parks or 826la (you're a writer, come on!) or Machine Project or the Kogi taco truck. Why, it would be a whole new world.

Plus Snake of Eden are eliminated anyway. Time to expand your horizons.

Party Foul!

You know LA stereotyping has gotten bad when it starts making its way into Supreme Court decisions.

To wit, Antonin Scalia's widely-reported quote tossed somewhat blithely into a recent decision about cussing on TV, Federal Communications Commission et al. vs. Fox Television Stations, Inc., et al:

We doubt, to begin with, that small-town broadcasters run a heightened risk of liability for indecent utterances. In programming that they originate, their down-home local guests probably employ vulgarity less than big-city folks; and small-town stations generally cannot afford or cannot attract foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood.
Speculate much, Scalia? Okay, look: I know, you're a Supreme Court Justice and therefore your opinions aren't just considered enlightened, but so enlightened that they're actually made into law. The eyes and ears of the world are upon you, waiting to hear these things. That's a heavy responsibility. So please don't go around telling everyone people in Los Angeles are "foul-mouthed glitteratae" because they'll tend to take your words with a measure of gravity.

Unless they've actually, you know, been to both Los Angeles and a small American town, in which case they'll realize people cuss about the same.